My last post was about a 3-year old, A402, who had just returned to the area of his chickhood for the first time since fledging. He came back again. He engaged very briefly with an older albatross, a 7-year old named Niko who spends most of his time in my neighborhood. Then Niko left. I watched A402 walk around and talk to himself. Mostly his vocalization is a variation of what I hear a parent say to call a chick, a descending sort of “Eh, eh, eh,” sound. That is interspersed with some whistling, which an albatross uses in a variety of circumstances.
In the second half of the film a couple about 20 feet away appear to be mimicking his vocalizations, which seems to surprise him.
He notices the swarms of millions of gnats that took over the golf course that afternoon, then continues vocalizing.
A day after I recorded the films above, I found A402 sitting on his sibling. Makai did not seem to mind being squashed at all. I have never seen this before, even with parents. The chick did not make any protests, even when A402 groomed him around the eye.
A402 has not returned recently, he probably will stay out at sea until next year. He will pass the time flying in search of food sources, sitting on the surface of the ocean from time to time to rest and to grab squid, fish, flying fish eggs and small crustaceans. He will not come back to land until he returns to Kauai. An albatross returning for the second year back to his old home generally will not come back until January or February of the following year.
Next year he will begin the long process of finding a mate. It will probably take two or more years of hard work. For birds that spend so much time at sea, they have developed some fairly complex patterns of behaviors. They pack an extraordinary variety of movements and vocalizations into their social interactions.
Some of the birds that I have been observing for ten years have never found a mate. Some birds have moved to other areas to look for one. Georgia Gooney, a 5-year old who fledged from Princeville, appeared regularly on the Cornell Webcam this season. One of the Princeville chicks showed up at Midway, tapping on the ranger’s door. Wherever they end up, it will take a combination of ancient instinct, the ability to adapt to whatever environment they may end up in, and the intelligence unique to each one to survive and to find an appropriate nesting partner. But looming over all of these is the one thing that will ultimately decide their fate.
Will the human beings they share their world with care enough about them to help and not to hinder their chance of survival as a species?