Welcome to the world!

Our first Princeville chick hatched a couple of days ago after 3 days of pipping.  Pipping seemed to be going very slowly, then suddenly two days ago he was all the way out, looking like a little drowned rat.  This is a nest I can actually see from my house with binoculars; yesterday I saw him standing up in all his fluffy adorableness.  I really wanted to film him or take a photo, but any time a person comes within 30 feet of the nest, Mom sits on him.  She is, of course, a good parent.  The chicks are at their most vulnerable at this age and they need parents who will keep an eye out for all possible dangers.

So now I am hoping to film Dad attempting to take over parental duties.  This is one of my favorite albatross behaviors.  When they are incubating the eggs, the transfer of nest duty is usually smooth.  Often the couple will exhibit some of the gentle grooming I see when they first meet in November.  However, the first time a parent comes back to the nest to find that the egg has been replaced by a tiny new chick, this little one now becomes the focal point of all of their behavior.  A fight over possession of the nest will often ensue.

“Get off, it’s my turn!”

“No!  Go away!”

It starts out with a gentle nudge, but often escalates into more of a frantic shove.  Sometimes the displaced parent can hardly bear to leave, and will run back to the nest to make sure that the chick is still O.K., possibly attempting to start the shoving match all over again.  Eventually, though, the albatross who was on the egg when the chick hatched will take off to find food for the little one.

For the first 2 to 4 weeks, there will always be a parent with the chick.  I looked at 6 nests from last year, and the average amount of time the parents spent at the nest after their chicks hatched was about 20 days.   During incubation the parents take long shifts on the egg, anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, but once the chick hatches they switch much more frequently.  Then they start leaving the chick alone for a day, gradually extending that length of time.  At first the parents will sit close to the chicks, but over time they start sitting further and further away.  The chicks get used to being alone.

Eventually the parents will be spending most of their time getting food for their growing chicks.  Towards the end of the season, I count it as a stroke of luck if I see a parent.  They may return at night, and they spend just enough time at the nest to feed their chicks.  It is a difficult job.

But as long as people still care about these birds, it is not a thankless job.  We can all show our appreciation by keeping predators, the most common being the domesticated dog, away from the albatrosses.  Most of the albatrosses that were killed on Kaua’i were attacked by someone’s pet dog.  A dog that ignores the motionless albatrosses that are sitting in nests may still chase one that is walking or running, acting more bird-like.

Please help by obeying the leash law and by supporting its enforcement.

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3 Responses to Welcome to the world!

  1. Mona Gardner says:

    Wonderful report! Thank you!

  2. Prudence Delamater says:

    Holly, I walked with Cathy to see the albatross sitting today, could not see this chick she is talking about below, because her mom was sitting on her. New word for Anabelle: pipping, the chick pips it’s way out of the egg in 2-5 days. Mom and Dad cannot help. However when the pipping is going on, Mom or Dad, who ever is sitting, talks to the chick inside and the chick talks back! Another word for Anabelle, I learned is the eggs are “candled” by a biologist after they are laid. They literally are lifted out from under the bird, with a pad replacing them while the biologist looks at them under a hood with a flash light. After 5 day of being laid, the live “embryo” can be seen. If they find a dead one, they just see liquid egg, and replace it with a viable egg from the Navy base across the island that have been retrieved (not sure why.) and incubated.

    I will send pictures when I can. Just got your call. Hope Greg has a good trip and I am so glad Madeline is subbing for me for you and Anabelle. love, mom

    ________________________________

  3. Tomo says:

    E como mai mea aloha nani!

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