This is part 4 of a series of posts about Tater, an albatross who hatched on my lawn and recently returned to Princeville after spending 6 years at sea. During that time he did not spend any time on land, so he had to relearn how to walk. He also started to attempt interactions with other albatrosses, the very first step in finding a mate. We know that Tater is a male because he was part of a research project that involved DNA sex testing of all of the chicks and many adults on the north shore of Kaua’i from 2006-2008. I am hoping that someday he will nest in my yard, but as long as he is living in Princeville I will be happy.
Obviously, young Tater never had a chance to try a display with other albatrosses when he was out at sea for 6 years. He was pretty tired when this bird landed near him but he did not want to lose an opportunity to meet and greet one of his own kind. So he attempted an albatross sit-down display. This does not impress the ladies, as you can see from his partner’s lack of a response. If it is true that the albatrosses check out the physical fitness of their partners by the variety of movements and vocalizations they display, Tater’s act will need some work.
He puts more effort into this interaction, even standing up, sort of, but things start going wrong when he stumbles into the other bird. Like his first partner, this one seems to have no clue that he is trying to display with her. Tater had learned something about albatross socialization from the birds he observed across the golf cart path, and he attempted a modified version of a beak-duel greeting, which is something they typically do when they first meet each other. With experienced birds, the duel involves actual bill contact. This one is more the albatross equivalent of the air kissing women do when they do not want to mess up their lipstick. His partner valiantly tries to touch bills, but when the other bird is doing so much head bobbing it may be better to look away to avoid getting seasick.
I have seen Tater once since January 20th. Through my years of observing them I have learned that an albatross may come to Princeville for just a day or two his first year back. I know that I am lucky to see one of these birds, even though I check the areas where they gather every day. I rarely get to see one who is still having the problems navigating on land that Tater displayed in my video. To be able to share these moments with the albatross who spent his first 5 months on my lawn puts this experience somewhere at the top of my list of the reasons why I plow through a variety of frustrations and keep on spending so many moments with these birds.
I wish Tater and all the other Princeville albatrosses long and happy lives.
If you would like to watch the whole video, please check it out on YouTube. Get the popcorn ready, the film is about 20 minutes long. It’s definitely meant for the unrepentant albatotrossophile.