Birds of Midway Atoll
Short-tailed Albatross / Phoebastria albatrus
The first Short-tailed Albatross was observed at Midway between 1936 and 1941. Since then, between one to three individuals has been observed every year. In recent years, two sub-adult Short-tailed Albatross have been observed on Sand and Eastern Islands (band #015 and #051). Bird #015 was banded as a chick in 1982 and #051 was banded in 1986 or 1989 (both in Japan).
Short-tails breed on Torishima, an island owned and administered by Japan. They have also been observed (non-breeding behavior) on Minami-Kojima in the Senkaku Islands of Southern Ryukyu Islands, also owned and administered by Japan.
The Short-tail population dropped dramatically due to feather hunters in the late nineteenth century. Over 5 million adults were hunted and killed. In 1939, their breeding grounds in Torishima were buried under 10-30 meters of lava as a result of a volcanic eruption. Population numbers dropped to 10 nesting pairs. The world population of Short-tailed Albatross is currently estimated at 2,200 birds.
Surface feeders. Diet consists of flying fish eggs, shrimp, squid, and crustaceans. Feed primarily during daybreak and twilight hours. Have been known to forage as far as 3,200 km (1,988 miles) from their breeding grounds.
The short-tail range overlaps with black-foot and Laysan albatross, covering most of the Northwestern and Northeastern Pacific Ocean.
The average age of first breeding is 6 years. Short-tailed Albatross are monogamous and have been known to create a new pair bond if original mate disappears or dies. Return to natal colony or may disperse to breed (e.g., adults on Midway Atoll). The first adults return to the colony in late October. Short-tails build their nests with surrounding sand, shrubbery or volcanic debris. Lays one egg. Incubation lasts approximately 65 days and is shared by both parents. Both adults feed the chick by regurgitating a mixture of flying fish eggs and squid oil. Sometime between late May and mid-June, chicks are almost full-grown and adults begin to abandon their nests. Chicks fledge soon after the adults leave the colony.