Biography of an albatross

Today I am sharing the story of a female albatross with the band number KP679.  She has led an interesting albatross life so I thought I would share it with all of you.

I started to collect data on these birds during the 2005-2006 nesting season, so I do not know her background preceding that.

Usually the albatrosses that have nested here before are the first birds to return to Princeville.  Often the males arrive here before the females.  While they are waiting for their mates to arrive, they may mate with other females that are returning.  This is how some of the birds in the female/female couples end up with fertile eggs.

In 2005 we saw KP679 mated by a male, Kp641.  She left for about 8 days while he met up with his mate, KP513.  When KP679 returned she built a nest in my neighborhood and laid an egg.  KP641 never relieved her on the nest and she finally abandoned it after 37 days.

That same season KP731, a male, had a nest with his mate, KP680.  This couple nested in the vicinity of Punahele Road.  We used to call them Mr. and Mrs. Pastry Bird because someone had once left a Danish pastry by their nest.  For the rest of this post I will refer to them as Mr. PB and Mrs. PB so I don’t have to throw too many band numbers at you.

The following season, 2006-2007, Mrs. PB had a traumatic experience.  On December 6th I received a call that a gardener had seen a “big white bird” in a fenced off yard.  It was Mrs. PB.  I carried her out to a nearby empty lot and she immediately flew away.    Mr. PB had returned to Princeville on November 11th, and Mrs. PB probably would have joined him within the next week if she had not been trapped.  He was gone by the time she was freed.  Mr. and Mrs. PB did not nest that year, and when I saw them sitting a few feet away from each other later in the season they were not engaged in any of the “quiet contact” behaviors nesting couples normally engage in.  They looked like two albatrosses who had never met before.

Mr. PB started spending time on the golf course furthest from Punahele Road and he met KP679 there.  They started spending time together, displaying and sitting quietly with each other.  Mrs. PB spent her time on the other golf course, closer to the area where she had always nested before.

In 2007-2008 Mr. PB and KP679 nested together on the golf course and raised a chick who fledged successfully.  During this season Mrs. PB spent most of her time on the other golf course and in my neighborhood.

At the beginning of the 2008-2009 season I saw Mr. and Mrs. PB near each other on several different days on the golf course where Mr. PB had nested with KP679.   They displayed together, but I still saw Mr. PB occasionally sitting near KP679.  Then one day Mrs. PB chased KP679 away from her former mate twice.  After that KP679 stayed on another part of the golf course, and Mr. and Mrs. PB displayed together on several different days.

In the 2009-2010 season, Mr. and Mrs. PB nested together once again.  KP679 had a nest close to theirs.  Mr. PB was nearby when she left her nest; he sat on her egg briefly, but when Mrs. PB left hers he chose to incubate that one instead.  He had made his final decision about which mate to stay with.

Next season, 2010-2011, Mr. and Mrs. PB nested together again.  KP679  stayed on that golf course but was not near them.

This year Mr. and Mrs. PB are nesting together again.

Mrs. PB and golfers

On December 18th I found KP679 on a new nest.  That is very late in the season, and so far no other bird has taken over incubation for her.  She may not have a mate who will help with this egg, in which case she will have to abandon it to feed herself, as she did in 2005.

I hope she finds a good mate for next year.

KP679 sitting on her egg

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