On Sunday, November 10th, KP618 and KP467 were still sitting in separate areas, a behavior that would be highly unusual if they were a couple with plans of nesting together.
Everything changed yesterday.
KP424 arrived. He nested in Princeville in the 1993-1994 season. His age is unknown, but I have never heard of an albatross younger than 5 nesting; using 1993 as a baseline, he is at least 25 years old. Every year since I started collecting data in 2005, KP424 has nested in the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Every year he has always returned to Princeville and stayed here for 2 to 10 days before flying to the refuge to nest with his partner. He never interacted much with the locals, he just sat on one particular lawn and watched the other albatrosses.
Last year, he did not return to the refuge, and neither did his partner. I just counted the number of times I observed him here: fifty! He was a busy boy, too, participating in 11 displays and 5 quiet contacts. Most of those displays involved KP467, the female who arrived on Saturday, and all of the quiet contact sessions were with her. I would say that is a good indication that they were both anticipating getting together this season.
All day yesterday, KP424 and Kp467 were together, and most of that time they were sitting close to each other in mutual grooming sessions. KP618 was sitting about 10 to 15 feet away from them. Today he is still here, but the other two have left. If I were a betting person, I would give you odds that this couple will come back in about a week or so, she will lay an egg, and they will raise a chick together.
Is it possible that the father of the egg is actually KP618, that he and KP467 mated before KP424 returned? Absolutely! But I do not think that KP424 will be thinking this. He will be acting on instinct, which will tell him to take over incubation duties when KP467 leaves after laying her egg.
It is interesting that so far this season I have seen a female who was rejected by her mate and has not nested for a couple of years, and two males whose mates disappeared last year. I did not mention another neighborhood albatross that I saw yesterday, K233. He and his mate have raised two chicks together. Last year I saw them both for the first time on November 23rd. I saw him a few times after that, but she did not come back for over 3 weeks. They did not nest. I last saw her on January 16th. He came back a few times after that, but I did not see her again. I looked at my chart for another year and their behavior patterns were actually quite similar, so I will not try to predict whether or not she is coming back this year.
This photo shows him sitting not far from where they have nested before, near the palm tree in the back to the right.
I will keep an eye out for his partner, who has a purple leg band with a number following the letter “O,” which indicates that she was banded on Oahu.
I will also be watching KP618 to see if he is spending his time looking for a new mate. It takes some albatrosses longer than others. They do have unique personalities, that is one fact about albatross behavior that I can attest to. So can anyone who has read this blog for any length of time.