Birds of Kīlauea Point
Black-footed Albatross / Phoebastria nigripes / Ka‘upu
Although ka‘upu are occasionally sighted on Kaua‘i, they are commonly seen on Midway Atoll.
Ka‘upu are diurnal surface feeders. Unlike the moli, whose retinas possess a high level of rhodopsin enabling better night vision, the black-foots have limited nocturnal vision. Diet consists primarily of flying fish eggs. They also feed on squid and crustaceans. Squid, which float to the surface during darkness, are much more accessible to Laysans. Ka‘upu, on the other hand, rely on flying fish eggs, which are easier to locate during the day. The competition for food between ka‘upu and moli is reduced due to this difference in prey items and feeding behavior.
Monogamous. If one of the mates should disappear or die, a new pair bond is created. Nests are made up of pieces of surrounding grasses, sand, or shrubbery. Ka‘upu like to nest in more open, less vegetated areas as compared to moli. The majority of their nests are located near beaches. Breeding begins in early November. One egg is laid and incubation lasts about 65 days. Both male and female incubate the egg. Incubation starts with the females who usually stay for a short 2-day span. The male then takes over, sometimes as long as 3 weeks. If the egg is infertile or breaks during incubation, relaying will not occur during that year.
Chicks begin to hatch in mid-January and live on a diet of flying fish eggs and squid oil. Both adults feed the chick by regurgitation. The chick will peck at the lower beak of the parent which stimulates the parent to regurgitate. The rich squid and stomach oil is filled with fatty acids and nutrients that can sustain a chick for a number of days while the parent goes out to sea in search of more food. Fledging occurs 4-5 months after hatching (June and July). Relying on their fat reserves, the chicks survive on land, practicing take-offs until they master flight. Sub-adults return to their natal colony when 3 years of age but do not mate and nest until at least age 6-8 years.