Albatrosses mate for life (?)

Both in 2007-08 and 2008-09 KP505 and his mate raised a chick; the following season he returned in November but his mate did not return until January.  By January, he had already met KP792 and they had spent more and more time together, sitting quietly and grooming each other, the quiet contact that is typical of a nesting couple.  Last year KP505 and KP792 were the first albatrosses to return to Princeville and they raised a chick that was named Coconut.  Last week they both met up on the lawn where they had a nest last year.  After an albatross couple mates, they usually leave for about eight days and then reunite on land around the time the female lays the egg.  They should return here any day.

KP505’s first mate was KP729.  Sometimes last season she would sit near the nest he had with his new mate.  Today I saw KP729 sitting in almost the exact spot where that nest was.  Was she waiting for her former mate?

KP729 sits near former mate's nest site

Down the street from her there are two nests quite close to each other.  With all the available lawn space around here, I would have thought that the second couple would have chosen another spot.

K233 and KP467 on their nests

The bird in the front, KP467, has been waiting for her mate to sit on her egg.  He is currently sitting in the next yard.  Usually when the male returns shortly after the egg has been laid, he takes over incubation duties, and his first shift on the egg is most often the longest one.  These two birds have been raising chicks for at least as long as I have been collecting data.  Last year they abandoned their egg.  KP467 left Princeville for most of the rest of the season, but KP531 stayed behind and spent some quality time with K112.  I saw them displaying together last week, then K112 left.  Is KP531 waiting for her to return?  Or will he take over incubation duty for his long-time mate?

Don’t these birds know that albatrosses mate for life?

There is a danger in assigning human attributes to animals like albatrosses.  They are not “bad” because they leave one mate for another.  They are not “good” if they stay with one mate forever.  It’s natural for us to feel sorry for the rejected mates but we’re just being human.  They, on the other hand, are just being albatross.


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1 Response to Albatrosses mate for life (?)

  1. Marilou Knight says:

    No truer words have ever been written. They are just being albatross.

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