Seasons of Wildlife

Laysan albatross adult brooding chick.

Spring 

March

  • Albatross - The chicks of Laysan and black-footed albatrosses  (mōlī and ka'upu) begin to wander from their nests. 
  • Bonin petrel (Nunulu) - Chicks begin hatching and nonbreeding activity over colonies increases. 
  • Red-tailed tropicbird (Koa'e'ula) - Nesting and egg laying continues. Aerial courtship displays are more frequent. 
  • Great frigatebird (ʻIwa) – Courtship, nest building and egg laying begins on Eastern Island. 
  • Red-footed booby ( ʻA )- Nest building and egg laying continues on Eastern Island, the first chicks hatch in March.
  • Terns - Egg laying continues and a few chicks may be present. More gray-backed (pākalakala) and sooty terns (ʻewaʻewa) return to Eastern and Spit Islands.
  • Shearwaters - Christmas shearwaters (ʻaoʻū), which nest only on Eastern Island, begin returning to the atoll. A few wedge-tailed shearwaters (ʻuaʻu kani) may arrive later in the month.
  • Hawaiian monk seal (`Ilio holo I ka uaua) births can occur during any month, but most pups are born between late March and early April, but birthing has been recorded year round.  

April 

Populations of shorebirds begin to decrease as these birds start their migration to their summer breeding grounds. Some of these birds have spent their entire winter on Midway.

  • Albatross - The chicks continue growing and many wander from their nests.
  • Bonin petrel  (Nunulu)- Hatching is completed during April.
  • Red-tailed tropicbird  (Koa'e'ula )- Some chicks begin hatching, but eggs continue to be laid as well.
  • Great frigatebird (ʻIwa) - Egg laying continues on Eastern Island.
  • Red-footed booby  ( ʻA ) - Egg laying continues and more chicks begin to hatch.
  • Black noddy (noio)- Nesting and chick rearing continues.
  • Brown noddy (noio koha) - Brown noddies begin returning to the atoll.
  • Terns - White tern (manu-o-kū) chicks are more numerous, though egg laying continues.
  • Gray-backed terns (pākalakala) begin laying eggs by mid-April and sooty terns (ʻewaʻewa) begin laying eggs by the end of the month.
  • Shearwaters - Christmas shearwaters (ʻaoʻū) begin nesting, while adult wedge-tailed shearwaters (ʻuaʻu kani) are spending their nights courting and beginning to burrow.
  • Hawaiian monk seals (`Ilio holo I ka uaua) undergo a complete molt each year, typically between April and December. The seals shed all of their hair and a layer of skin within approximately 7-10 days and usually remain on shore the majority of the time. 

May

  • Albatross - Laysan and black-footed (mōlī and ka'upu) chicks continue growing and are much better at walking. They begin showing some adult feathers.
  • Bonin petrel (Nunulu) - Some chicks fledge near the end of May. The presence of adults begins to decline.
  • Red-tailed tropicbird (Koa'e'ula) - Some eggs are just being laid, while many chicks are also hatching.
  • Great frigatebird (ʻIwa) - More eggs are laid on Eastern Island, while some chicks hatch.
  • Red-footed booby  ( ʻA ) - Egg laying ends on Eastern Island and chicks continue to hatch and grow.
  • Black noddy  (noio) - Nesting and chick rearing continues.
  • Brown noddy  (noio koha) - Brown noddies begin their egg laying.
  • Terns - White tern (manu-o-kū) egg laying and hatching continues as their peak breeding season begins. Gray-backed terns (pākalakala) begin hatching in May, but egg laying may continue during the month. More adult sooty terns (ʻewaʻewa) return to Eastern Island and egg laying peaks this month. As many as 75,000 pairs blanket the ground on Eastern Island.
  • Shearwaters - Christmas shearwaters (ʻaoʻū) continue nesting and adult wedge-tailed shearwaters (ʻuaʻu kani)  keep busy building their burrows. 
Green sea turtle swimming over reef at Midway Atoll.

Summer

June

  • Albatross - Adult black-footed albatrosses (ka'upu) begin leaving the atoll and a few chicks may fledge. Laysan albatross (mōlī) chicks are almost full grown and fewer adults are seen.
  • Bonin petrel (Nunulu) - All chicks fledge this month.
  • Red-tailed tropicbird (Koa'e'ula) - Eggs are still being laid and incubated, but most chicks have hatched and are growing.
  • Great frigatebird (ʻIwa) - More chicks are seen on Eastern Island.
  • Red-footed booby ( ʻA ) - Chicks continue to hatch and grow.
  • Black noddy (noio) - Most chicks are half grown.
  • Brown noddy (noio koha) - Most are still incubating their eggs, while some have hatched chicks.
  • Terns - Peak number of white terns (manu-o-kū) are present on the atoll. Chicks continue to grow, egg laying and hatching are nearly complete. More gray-backed tern (pākalakala) chicks have hatched. Most sooty tern chicks (ʻewaʻewa) hatch in June.
  • Shearwaters - Christmas shearwater (ʻaoʻū) chicks begin to hatch and wedge-tailed shearwaters (ʻuaʻu kani) begin laying eggs.
  • Adult green turtles (honu) migrate from foraging grounds throughout the Hawaiian Islands to breeding grounds. Males appear to migrate every year, arriving ahead of the females. Females return to the same beaches where they were born every 2-4 years to lay eggs, generally in the summer months. Hatchlings emerge en-masse, usually at night, from a sandy 2-ft deep nest after about 60 days.

July

  • Albatross - Remaining black-footed (ka'upu) adults and newly fledged chicks depart Midway this month. More juvenile Laysan albatross (mōlī) are fledging and only a few adults remain.
  • Bonin petrel (Nunulu) - All adults and chicks have left Midway by early July.
  • Red-tailed tropicbird (Koa'e'ula) - Most chicks have hatched and fledging of some chicks may begin.
  • Great frigatebird (ʻIwa) - Peak number of chicks are seen on Eastern Island.
  • Red-footed booby ( ʻA ) - Most of the chicks have hatched and continue to grow. Some chicks may even be fledging.
  • Black noddy (noio) - Most chicks are half grown and some have fledged.
  • Brown noddy (noio koha) - Most brown noddy (noio koha) chicks hatch in July, while some adults are just laying eggs.
  • Terns - White tern (manu-o-kū) chicks vary from hatchlings to older chicks ready to fledge. More gray-backed tern (pākalakala) chicks are hatching and some fledging. Sooty tern (ʻewaʻewa) chicks are growing.
  • Shearwaters - Christmas shearwater (ʻaoʻū) chicks are growing while adult wedge-tailed shearwaters  (ʻuaʻu kani)  continue incubating eggs.

August

While large numbers of seabirds may be leaving the atoll, shorebirds - especially Pacific golden plovers (kōlea) and ruddy turnstones (ʻakekeke) begin returning from their northern breeding grounds. Smaller numbers of bristle-thighed curlews (kiowea) and wandering tattlers (ʻūlili) may also be spotted. 

  • Albatross - Any remaining juvenile Laysan albatrosses (mōlī) have left the island by late August.
  • Bonin petrel (Nunulu) - These birds are not absent from the atoll for long, as they begin returning and renovating their nesting burrows in August.
  • Red-tailed tropicbird (Koa'e'ula) - More of the early chicks are fledging, but a few eggs may be laid in renesting attempts.
  • Great frigatebird (ʻIwa) - Chicks continue to grow.
  • Red-footed booby ( ʻA ) - Chicks continue to grow and some are ready to fledge the nest.
  • Black noddy (noio) - Chicks continue to grow and many are fledging.
  • Brown noddy (noio koha) - Many chicks have just hatched and some adults are still incubating eggs.
  • Terns - Many white tern (manu-o-kū) chicks have fledged by the end of August. More gray-backed tern (pākalakala) chicks are fledging as well as most sooty tern (ʻewaʻewa) chicks.
  • Shearwaters - Christmas shearwater (ʻaoʻū) chicks are still growing and wedge-tailed shearwater (ʻuaʻu kani) chicks are beginning to hatch.
Bristle-thighed curlew flying over shoreline at Midway Atoll.

Fall 

September

Shorebird flocks continue to arrive on Midway. Pacific golden plover (kōlea), ruddy turnstone (ʻakekeke), and bristle-thighed curlew (kiowea) populations peak for the fall season in September. 

  • Bonin petrel (Nunulu) - Many adults are present on the atoll, courting and excavating burrows.
  • Red-tailed tropicbird (Koa'e'ula) - Fledging continues and a few older chicks remain.
  • Great frigatebird (ʻIwa) - Chicks are still growing.
  • Red-footed booby ( ʻA ) - Most of the chicks learn to fly this month.
  • Black noddy (noio) - Most chicks have fledged.
  • Brown noddy  (noio koha) - Most chicks have fledged while some adults are caring for young chicks.
  • Terns - Most white terns (manu-o-kū) have fledged. Fewer gray-backed terns (pākalakala) are seen and most sooty terns (ʻewaʻewa) depart by the end of September.
  • Shearwaters – Christmas (ʻaoʻū) and wedge-tailed shearwater (ʻuaʻu kani) chicks continue to grow. A few Christmas shearwater (ʻaoʻū) chicks are fledging and more wedge-tailed (ʻuaʻu kani) chicks are hatching.

October

Many shorebirds remain on Midway over the winter, but others depart for warmer climates. 

  • Albatross - The first black-footed and Laysan albatrosses (mōlī and ka'upu) return in the latter half of October.
  • Bonin petrel (Nunulu) - Many adults are present on the atoll and busy building their burrows.
  • Red-tailed tropicbird (Koa'e'ula) - The season’s remaining young generally fledge by the end of October.
  • Great frigatebird (ʻIwa) - Juveniles begin to fledge.
  • Red-footed booby ( ʻA ) - All but the last chicks of the season fledge by October.
  • Black noddy (noio) - With their long nesting season, black noddies (noio) may start nesting and laying eggs in October.
  • Shearwaters - More Christmas shearwater (ʻaoʻū) chicks are fledging and wedge-tailed (ʻuaʻu kani) chicks continue to grow.

November

  • Albatross - Black-footed albatrosses (ka'upu) are busy building nests and laying eggs in November. Most of the Laysan albatrosses (mōlī) return during November though the early arrivals may begin laying eggs by late November.
  • Red-tailed tropicbird (Koa'e'ula) - Fledging continues and a few older chicks remain.
  • Great frigatebird  (ʻIwa) - The last of the season’s juveniles fledge.
  • Black noddy (noio)- Some black noddies continue nesting and laying eggs.
  • Shearwaters - The last Christmas shearwater (ʻaoʻū) chicks fledge and depart, followed by all of the wedge-tailed shearwaters (ʻuaʻu kani) near the end of the month.
Bonin petrel close to its burrow at Midway Atoll.

Winter 

December

  • Albatross - Black-footed albatrosses (ka'upu) are incubating eggs and most of the Laysan albatross (mōlī) eggs are laid this month.
  • Bonin petrel (Nunulu) - Many adults are present on the atoll.
  • Black noddy (noio)- Black noddies (noio) continue nesting and laying eggs in December and small numbers of brown noddies  (noio koha) are seen.
  • Terns - The number of white terns (manu-o-kū) begin to increase.

January

  • Albatross - The first black-footed albatross (ka'upu) chicks usually hatch during mid-month, followed one or two weeks later by Laysan albatross (mōlī) chicks. Parent birds spend most of their time on the nest.
  • Bonin petrel (Nunulu) - Secure in their underground burrows, egg laying starts. Many nonbreeding birds are active over the colonies at night.
  • Red-tailed tropicbird (Koa'e'ula)- January is the beginning of courtship for early season nesters.
  • Red-footed booby  ( ʻA ) - Nesting occurs only on Eastern Island. Adults are present in January and may be building nests or laying eggs by the end of the month.
  • Black noddy (noio) - The nesting cycle for black noddies occurs over a long time period.

February

  • Albatross - By the end of the month, all black-footed albatross  (ka'upu) and Laysan albatross (mōlī) chicks have hatched. Adults start leaving older chicks unattended while feeding at sea.
  • Bonin petrel (Nunulu) - Nesting continues during February, and many nonbreeders are visible at night.
  • Red-tailed tropicbird (Koa'e'ula) - Some nesting and egg laying begins by late February, though more courtship displays are still ongoing.
  • Great frigatebird (ʻIwa) - Courtship and nest building may occur in February but is limited to Eastern Island.
  • Red-footed booby ( ʻA ) - Nest building and egg laying continues on Eastern Island.
  • Black noddy (noio) - Some nesting and chick rearing continues during February.
  • Terns - Some white terns (manu-o-kū) begin laying eggs in February. These birds lay their eggs on tree branches, on top of utility poles, on ledges, or wherever they fancy. Gray-backed and sooty terns (pākalakala and ʻewaʻewa ) begin returning to Eastern and Spit Islands near the end of February. 

 

Featured Species

Midway Atoll's (Kuaihelani) three small islands provide a virtually predator-free safe haven for the world's largest albatross colony encircled by a ring of coral reef that hosts an amazing variety of unique wildlife including honu (green sea turtles), nai'a (spinner dolphins),  endangered `Ilio holo I ka uaua (hawaiian monk seals) and koloa pōhaka (laysan duck) among an unprecedented rate of endemic fish.  

Birds found at Midway Atoll (Kuaihelani) include ka'upu and  mōlī (black-footed and laysan albatross), ʻaoʻū and ʻuaʻu kani  (christmas  and  wedge-tailed shearwaters), and Manu-o-Kū (white tern). Nearly three-forths of the nunulu (bonin petrel) nesting in Hawaiʻi make this atoll their home. Migratory shorebirds seen on the island include the kolea (golden plover) (kolea), ulili (wandering tattler) (ulili), and kioea (bristle-thighed curlew). 

Although Midway’s (Kuaihelani’s) native vegetation and entomofauna have been greatly altered by more than a century of human occupation, the island boasts the largest nesting colonies of mōlī and kaʻupu (Laysan and black-footed albatrosses) in the world.  The Atoll also supports the first successful reintroduced population of endangered koloa pōhaka (laysan ducks), translocated from Kapou (Laysan Island) in 2004 and 2005.  koloa pōhaka (laysan ducks) use both the largely introduced vegetation of Midway Atoll (Kuaihelani) and the restored patches of native vegetation. Introduced yellow canaries breed among historic buildings that mark the beginning of cable communication across the Pacific near the beginning of the 20th century. 

There are many plant species found at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, with ongoing habitat restoration work to remove invasive plants and stabilize areas with native species. The endangered loulu palm (pritchardia remota) and pōpolo have been reintroduced through the native habitat restoration program; both species thrive at Midway Atoll (Kuaihelani) 

Over the years, many invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
have been eradicated from the atoll, or are in the process of being controlled.  The Navy, FWS, and U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services (USDA Wildlife Services) successfully eradicated rats from Midway, a small forest of mature ironwood trees (an alien invasive species) has been removed from Eastern Island, and new ironwood seedlings from the remaining seedbank are removed as they are detected.  The plant golden crownbeard (Verbesina encelioides) was also severely problematic as it grew quickly and densely and took away habitat for nesting seabirds.  Large stands of the plant have been removed from the atoll through extensive restoration work.  The common house mouse is also a recent pest as they have been observed nibbling on adult albatross either greatly injuring them or causing death.  Eradication of this species is ongoing. 

Black-footed Albatross
Adult Black-footed Albatross are large seabirds though small compared with other albatross species. They are very long with narrow wings, mostly dusky brown, white at the base of their bill and under eye, and have a large bill. Juveniles are similar to adults, but usually have less white at the...
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Short-tailed Albatross
The largest and only white-bodied albatross in the north Pacific. Golden, yellow cast on head and nape. Upper wings: white with black primaries, secondaries, and tertials. Under wing: white with black leading and trailing edges. White tail with black fringe. Large, pink bill with blue tip and black...
FWS Focus