Birds of Midway Atoll
Laysan Albatross / Phoebastria immutabilis
Seventy-one percent of the world's population nests on Midway. In January 2008, 452,609 breeding pairs of Laysan Albatross were nesting on all three islands of Midway Atoll (Sand: 274,043; Eastern: 176,561; and Spit: 2,005).
Primarily nocturnal feeders. Laysans are surface feeders. Therefore feed on anything that floats on the surface of the water; squid, fish, crustaceans and flying fish eggs. Unfortunately, this inludes marine debris as well; with an estimated 5 tons of plastic being accidently fed to chicks each year. Laysans usually stay at least 20 to 30 kilometers offshore during the nonbreeding months (July - October). During these months Laysans are distributed throughout the northwestern and northeastern range of the Pacific.
Monogamous. If one of the mates should die, they will most likely create a new pair bond. Nests are made up of surrounding grasses, dirt or shrubbery and are piled into large mounds that form a nest cup. Laying begins in mid-November. One egg is laid and incubation lasts about 65 days. Incubation starts with the female who usually stays for a short 2-day span. The male then takes over for as long as three weeks. During the month of December the number of incubating males outnumber that of incubating females 15:1. If the egg is infertile or breaks during incubation, re-laying will not occur that year.
Chicks hatch during late January to mid-February. Chicks live off a diet of flying fish eggs and squid oil, a product that is rich in fat. Both parents will feed the chick by regurgitation and will often leave them for several days while they obtain food out at sea. The rich squid and stomach oil is filled with fatty acids and nutrients that can sustain a chick for the number of days between feedings. Fledging occurs 5-6 months after hatching (mid-June through late July). Parents will often leave before the chicks have reached their full juvenile plumage.
Subadults return to their natal nesting colony after spending 3 - 5 years at sea. Elaborate courtship dances take place throughout the colony while these young birds search for a mate. Mating and first nesting usually occurs by age 6-8.