The chicks are starting to leave their nests. Often they will build nests of their own, sometimes in better locations than the ones their parents built. For example, one chick hatched in a nest in tall grass, taller than he is. He moved a bit uphill under some trees, where he is more protected from rain, wind and sun.
The old nest, with the egg shell still in it:
The one the chick built:
And now he has moved a few feet away to a new nest, built on bark from a eucalyptus tree.
Building a new nest is important for another reason. When the chicks fledge, they have to start getting their own food. Albatrosses are not divers, they sit on the water and grab squid, fish, crustaceans and flying fish eggs from the area around them. Every day now I find the chicks pulling up leaves, grass, any small objects, often moving them from one place to another. They are learning how to manipulate their bills, so superbly adapted over the millennia for a variety of uses. Catching dinner at sea will be easier because of this daily practice.
The form of locomotion they use is what my sister Cindy calls “shmoo-ing,” based on a character created as part of the Li’l Abner comic strip back in the 40s and 50s. Google it, young people, and you will see what a shmoo is. The resemblance to an albatross chick is striking.
In this little film you will see two chicks. One is exploring the area around his nest and moving bits of vegetation around. At the end of the film he walked back to his original nest, and he has not yet built a secondary nest.
The other chick was actually building a nest around him, by moving twigs and leaves around his body and by kicking out an indentation in the ground with his feet. He now resides in his new nest full time. You can see him in the photo following the film clip.
Here is the chick who built a new nest. It is not very far from the old one, and since there are no other nests anywhere near, his parents will easily find him when they come back. Even so, sometimes parents will return to the old nest and wait for their chick to waddle over to them.