Good and bad eggs

It has not been a good year for the incubator eggs from nests at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (see http://www.acap.aq/2011-news-archive/sixth-year-for-the-laysan-albatross-egg-swap-on-kauai-hawaii-deemed-a-success) that were placed under 8 of the birds in Princeville.  One broke a few weeks ago and 4 of them never hatched.

This is a photo of KP756 and KP404.  They nested this year for the first time.  KP404 fledged from my neighborhood in 2003.  So far, all of the birds who we know fledged from Princeville have chosen mates who did not fledge from here.  I think that is very interesting, since birds who fledged in different years from the same area could be siblings.

They were given a PMRF egg and KP756 abandoned it on February 10th, long after it was due to hatch, but KP404 was back incubating the egg the next day.  Since then, Kp756 has spent some time wandering around and some time sitting with KP404.  Kp404 has not given up; some albatrosses do not abandon a bad egg until it breaks beneath them.

KP756, KP404 and bad egg

KP679 had an egg on December 18th.  With no mate to share incubation, she left her egg from January 4th to 24th, then sat on it until it broke yesterday, February 14th.

I would like to thank all of the residents of the Puamana Condos who have watched over KP679 and her nest.  The Princeville albatrosses may not know it, but they depend on people like you for their continued survival in our alien environment.

KP679 and her broken egg

Every year the albatrosses who raised chicks together here in previous years return to Princeville.  If one doesn’t, I never see that bird again and I presume he or she died.  The surviving mates do not all react the same to losing a mate.  Some start looking for a new one the same season, others seem to take several years to get back into the search.

One of my favorites is KP519.  From 2004 until 2008 Kp519 nested with her mate in my neighborhood.  In one of those years they were given a PMRF chick from an egg that hatched before it could be moved to a nest in Princeville.  Their infertile egg was removed from the nest and was replaced by the tiny new chick, a miracle which the parents happily accepted.  In the fall of 2008, her mate did not return.  KP519 waited until February 1st and then left Princeville.

In 2009 she returned and displayed several times with several different birds, not with one in particular.

In 2010, she was again involved in displays with different birds.  But twice I saw her with KP251 in the “quiet contact” typical of mated couples.

This season she nested with KP251 and they have a big, healthy chick:

KP519 and chick

You will often see chicks sitting on their parent’s feet.  This position puts them close to the warm body of the adult and also prevents the parent from stepping on the chick.

I might be able to get better photos if I went closer to the birds or if I waited around for the birds to change position.  Unfortunately some people have harassed the birds in this way to get a good photograph, and can even convince themselves that the albatrosses actually enjoy their presence.   As an observer my first obligation is to cause minimal stress to the birds.  That means I get my data as quickly as possible and leave them alone.  Since I am not an albatross, I cannot tell precisely how stressed they are, but research has indicated that they react to stress by producing hormones that can have a detrimental affect on their physical well-being.

It is the obligation of everyone who cares about albatrosses to treat them with the respect that wild animals deserve; that means staying out of their world as much as possible and not inventing roles for them in ours.

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