This week I have been observing a most unusual nest. It is long past nesting season for the albatrosses. I have never seen a nest built past December, nor have I seen a fertile egg laid past the third week in December. Occasionally an albatross who is not nesting will sit on an abandoned, infertile egg, or even on an inanimate object. One of the successful nesters in my neighborhood once tried briefly to incubate a tennis ball.
I have never seen an albatross spend more than an hour attempting this kind of incubation. I have also never seen an albatross build a new nest in February or March. Until now. We have a bird who has built a simple nest around the sawed off cap from the end of a PVC pipe. This nest was approximately 2 weeks old when I first saw it, and as far as the homeowners know, the bird did not leave it during this period of time.
I went to check on it yesterday, and found a male albatross named Kaulele interacting with the “nester” as she careful tended to her “egg,” moving it underneath the brood patch on her abdomen that keeps an egg in close contact with warm skin. I know that the visitor is a male, so I am assuming the one on the nest is a female. Kaulele is 7 years old and has never nested before.
Why is she staying on this nest, on an object that has rough edges and looks uncomfortable, nothing like an egg? Has she ever nested before?
Will the male take over incubation duties for her or does he know that there is something wrong with this picture?
UPDATE: Kaulele has taken over incubation duties of the PVC cap. How is that for a first-time nesting experience? I am hoping that he and his partner return to nest next November. They have chosen a good area, where the residents all keep an eye on the birds and the chicks can easily fly/walk down the golf course to an ocean bluff, to spread their wings and launch themselves into the updrafts that will help to carry them safely out over the ocean. Of course, this does not explain the chick who made his way across the golf course to one of the busiest roads in Princeville and walked on down to stand patiently at the lobby door of the Princeville Westin Hotel. I think they do things like this so humans like me will never get to the point where we think we know everything about them.
Note to all the albatrosses: I retreated from that point long ago! I’m the one waving the white flag!