I was watching one of the chicks when a parent landed a couple of houses away. The chick had been watching the bird flying overhead, as had the other two chicks in the area, and when KP507 finally touched ground her chick clearly recognized her and started vocalizing excitedly.
KP507 ran towards her chick and I started filming them almost immediately. I did not get close enough to worry the parent; the worst thing an observer could do would be to scare away one of the chick’s meals. The minute a parent notices me, I move away.
The chick harasses the parent until feeding takes place. I am guessing that a chick that was ill and could not do this would not be fed. The chick I was filming was definitely not going to stop bothering Mom until she regurgitated something yummy, probably squid, or fish, or fish eggs, with bits of plastic mixed in.
Albatross parents do not swallow plastic because they think it is a healthy addition to the chick’s diet. Flying fish eggs are a favorite food, and these eggs will adhere to objects floating on the water’s surface. For this reason, lightweight pumice stone is often found in a bolus, which is a clump of the undigested parts of a meal that the chick regurgitates. Pumice stone has smooth edges and will not harm the chick’s digestive system. It is easily regurgitated. The eggs may also stick to plastic floating on the ocean. Plastic may chip and break, exposing sharp edges that can cause damage to the chick on the way down or up. In some cases, chicks are fed so much plastic that they feel satiated and lose their appetite. The chicks can actually starve to death, or die of dehydration.
My sister Cindy and I once found a chick who appeared to be choking. There was a bit of plastic fishing line sticking out of his mouth. It is always possible for a hook to be attached to this line, so we would never just yank on it, but the line came out easily. Here is a photograph of it:
The pestering of KP507’s chick paid off, and he eagerly ate his meal. Here is a little film of the happy event: