Ivan Vicente, Ivan_Vicente@fws.gov, 808-732-9535
Kahuku, Hawaiʻi - On February 27, 2020 a group of 25 fluffy new residents arrived on Oʻahu, headed to their new home at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge. This group of Black-footed albatross chicks made the 1,300 mile journey from Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial to a 16 acre predator exclusion area inside the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, located on the north shore of Oʻahu. These three-week-old chicks are part of a long term partnership effort with Pacific Rim Conservation to create new albatross colonies in the main Hawaiian Islands that will be safe from predators and future sea-level rise.
“Midway Atoll is home to one of the largest Black-footed albatross populations in the world. As conservation managers, it is important we use good science to evaluate other options that might protect these seabirds into the future,” said Midway Atoll Acting Refuge Manager, Steve Barclay. “Refuges like Midway Atoll and James Campbell provide the healthy habitat that Black-footed albatross, and other seabirds, need to thrive.”
Ninety percent of the world’s Black-footed albatross population nests and breeds on Midway Atoll, Laysan Island, and Tern Island, within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. All three locations are at very low elevation and are predicted to be highly susceptible to storm surges and sea-level rise in the coming century. Black-footed albatross are particularly at risk because they tend to nest along the shore line where there is no protection from coastal vegetation.
“A lot of conservation work tends to be reactionary in nature, but there are some threats that we know about already, we know it’s going to be a problem,” said Pacific Rim Conservation’s Director of Aviculture, Robby Kohley, “I think it’s important to be proactive about trying to address some of these threats before it’s an emergency.”
“This strong and enduring partnership is essential to making Oʻahu and other main Hawaiian Islands safe havens for this magnificent species,” said Glenn Klingler, Refuge Manager, James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge. “Translocating these birds via the support of our partners is the first step toward creating a new colony of Black-footed albatross in the main Hawaiian Islands and ensuring the albatross will be protected for future generations.”
The chosen translocation site at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge is at a high enough elevation that it is at less risk from rising sea-levels and increasing storm surges. Additionally, birds nesting within the predator-free enclosure will be protected from non-native predators that are prevalent in the main Hawaiian Islands such as mongoose, rats, and feral cats and dogs.
The three-week-old chicks will be hand fed a diet of fish and squid and closely monitored by Pacific Rim Conservation’s translocation team for the next four to five months before they fly off to sea for the first time. Once they fledge, juvenile albatross stay at sea for three to five years before returning home to find a mate and begin breeding.
Between 2015 and 2019, Pacific Rim Conservation translocated 50 Laysan albatross chicks and 65 Black-footed albatross chicks to the predator exclusion area at James Campbell, and eighty-two of those birds successfully fledged - took flight as adults. In 2018, the first James Campbell fledgling - a Laysan albatross named V106 - returned to the colony and has been returning to the colony every year since. This is the sixth year of the Seabird Translocation Project at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge and the fourth year for translocating Black-footed albatross.
“Albatross are threatened by sea level rise associated with global climate change. Recent storm surges have wiped out thousands of albatross nests with eggs or young chicks in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands,” said Eric VanderWerf, Director of Science for Pacific Rim Conservation. “By thinking proactively and working together to establish more secure colonies on high islands within the historical nesting range of the Black-footed albatross, we can ensure a future for these birds.”
Partners on these projects include Pacific Rim Conservation, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Defense, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
For photos of this week’s translocation project, visit: https://fileshare.fws.gov/?linkid=KZi4zr6VWWWLxg4uVTudnrcNpyS2Mziy8YDODS6ncAGbVD1eteJHGQ
For photos of previous translocations, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/albums/72157678759333471
Pacific Rim Conservation is a Hawaii-based 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We are a conservation organization whose primary focus is wildlife research and management, with a specialty in native birds. Our mission is to maintain and restore native bird diversity, populations, and ecosystems in Hawaii and the Pacific Region.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov/pacific, or connect with us through any of these social media channels at www.facebook.com/USFWSPacific, www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/, www.tumblr.com/blog/usfwspacific or www.twitter.com/USFWSPacific.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.