There is a little bit of albatross drama going on in my neighborhood. Last week,one of the first birds to return to Princeville, KP467, met up with her mate from previous years, KP531. Last year this couple abandoned their egg soon after it was laid. Today I saw KP531 displaying with another bird, K112. I knew I had seen them together last year when KP467 was gone, so I checked my database from last season. I found 6 days when I observed KP531 and K112 in quiet contact, the gentle grooming and nuzzling that nesters do. KP467 may very well lay an egg this season. Will K112 lay an egg, too?
We may have a threesome here, rather than the more traditional couple. I have seen two of these in Princeville: two females and one male, with two nests near or at least within sight of each other. In each case, the male did not go back and forth between the two nests, incubating two eggs. He chose one female’s egg to incubate. The other egg did not survive. There was a threesome on the golf course that nested like this from 2007 into 2010. In spite of the fact that the male never sat on her egg, the second-fiddle female, KP470, stayed in that relationship. Here’s an interesting fact. The year before she joined the others in the threesome, KP470 incubated an egg for 54 days straight. No male ever sat on that one, either.
The more I observe the albatrosses and pore over my data, the more I realize that it is not so easy to make generalizations about these birds. Just think of KP470 sitting on her egg, day after day, with nobody coming to relieve her.
What albatross pattern of behavior does that fall under?