As of yesterday there were 30 nests in Princeville.
Of these, there are 3 nests on a property where I am not allowed to collect data.
I found one egg abandoned on the golf course. There was a bird sitting nearby that may or may not be a parent.
Another egg on the other golf course was also abandoned. The first day I found it a bird was sitting on it, the next day it was abandoned, and the following day a different bird was sitting on it. I can’t say who the parents are. Albatrosses are attracted to the abandoned eggs, and will often sit on them.
Of the remaining 25 nests:
21 are nests of couples that have nested together before:
2 have one parent who has nested before and one who has not
2 have two parents who have not nested before
10 of the couples at these 25 nests are known to be female/female couples. I know the sexes of some of them for several reasons: DNA sex tests were done here for several years; others were observed laying their eggs; others can be identified as two females because they had two eggs. An albatross can lay only one egg. Sometimes these female partners each lay an egg in one nest, sometimes they build separate nests for their eggs. In these cases, one bird lays an egg and the second one takes the first incubation shift, just like the male does in a female/male couple. When the first bird leaves, the second one moves to another location and lays her own egg. When the first bird comes back she will sit on the egg her partner laid, which will be nice and warm. Often both females’ eggs are unfertilized; sometimes at least one is fertile.
Yesterday I found a new female/female nest arrangement. The first female laid her egg but the second one did not take over incubation of that egg. Instead, she went next door and laid an egg there. I can’t see either one abandoning her egg; the first one doesn’t even know about the second nest. Now will both birds wait for the other to take over incubation of her egg? If so, both eggs will eventually be abandoned. I have never seen a couple do this before, and these females have been nesting together since 2005 so they are not nesting novices. This does not seem to be a very smart arrangement and it makes my head hurt just thinking about it.
There may still be a few more nests that I am not expecting. Even checking every day, I can miss seeing couples reunite when they first come back here. They do not waste any time doing courtship displays, and may meet, mate (if a male is involved) and leave before I see them. They leave for about 8 days, and then return to nest. Couples in Princeville always stay in the same general areas where they nested previously, two residential areas and two golf courses that are on the ocean. Some of them always return to the same yard or golf course section, others move their nests to different sites within the four big areas. A bird who loses a mate may relocate to another area, find a mate there and have future nests there. I think they will eventually expand the areas where they nest, but for now they have plenty of room.
I’m sorry if this all seems rather confusing, but the more I observe them the more I see that they do not always fit neatly into the simplified descriptions we humans like to impose on them.
Although they have lots of room for nests in Princeville and generally prefer to nest far apart, this season I have two nests that are quite close to each other. The nest on the left has already been abandoned by the male, who is sitting on the egg of the second mate he met last season while his first mate was gone. I wrote about this couple in my last blog entry. The bird on the right is taking the first, longest incubation shift while his mate is out building up her strength after laying their egg.