This week was an important one for the albatrosses of Kaua’i. The birds sitting patiently on bad eggs which will never hatch have been given a second chance at parenthood. I have already written about the high number of female-female nests here. Out of 33 nests in Princeville that were not immediately abandoned, at least 10 have female-female nesters. Chances are there are even more of them, but these 10 couples have either been DNA tested for sex or had 2 eggs in their nests. An albatross can only lay one egg at a time; if there are 2 eggs at a nest there are 2 females. Occasionally these pairs have fertilized eggs, but they often have infertile ones, as do some of the male-female couples. The couples with infertile ones have been given eggs from other albatross nests that are located near airfields at the PMRF, the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility.
For a short article that is packed with information about this “egg swap,” including the reasons for removing the eggs from the nests at the PMRF and an explanation of how the eggs are “candled” to determine viability, I refer you to an article written by Dr. Lindsay Young. Dr. Young is the North Pacific News Correspondent for ACAP, the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, “which seeks to conserve albatrosses and petrels by coordinating international activity to mitigate threats to albatrosses and petrel populations.” She wrote this article for ACAP about this year’s egg swap. She and her husband, Dr. Eric VanderWerf, candled all of the eggs here in Kaua’i.
Lindsay and Eric are wildlife biologists who specialize in the study of birds. They run Pacific Rim Corporation, an organization dedicated to restoring and maintaining biological diversity in the Pacific Islands. Between them they have a vast knowledge of the seabirds and forest birds that make Hawaii so unique. Dr. Young is the project coordinator for the Kaena Point Ecosystem Restoration Project, a special area that is home to a variety of seabirds including Laysan albatrosses, the subjects of many of her papers. This year the first predator proof fence in the United States was installed at Kaena Point, and Lindsay and Eric are already seeing improvement in seabird survival rates. Their website is:
My neighbor Bob Waid took some photos of the candling in Princeville. You can see those and read a description of them at his website:
Princeville received 8 PMRF eggs this year. Of the 8 couples receiving them, 6 are known female-female couples and at the other 2 nests 3 of the 4 nesters are of unknown sex. A total of 33 PMRF eggs were placed at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and in nests on private properties. This is the most that have ever been placed.
This project would not have happened without the support of the U.S.Navy. They have biologists who have taken on the responsibility for running this egg swap by putting eggs from PMRF nesters in an incubator and monitoring them until they could be placed in nests on the North Shore. They also arranged for Lindsay and Eric to come here from Oahu to candle all of the eggs and to replace the bad ones. They did not have to do this, and they are to be commended for taking on these tasks to help to strengthen the population of Laysan albatrosses on Kaua’i.