Ten years ago, Jay
Holcomb banded a Laysan Albatross that ended up at International
Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC). Five years later he banded
another wayward bird that also ended up at the Bay area based
center. Both birds were taken out to sea and released. The
chance that these two birds, would become lovebirds and end
up at his center again, many years later, is akin to winning
the lottery. Especially since their breeding grounds are a
few tiny islands 2,800 miles west of San Francisco.
We suspect they're a mated pair because
of the displaying and brood patch on the female's breast.
And we know their history because of their federal bands.
But how do you explain the fate of the two of them ending
up at our center, together. Again? asked Holcomb, director
The birds are getting some R&R and waterproofing
before their release, which will occur out at sea. The center,
which specializes in the rehabilitation of sea birds and waterfowl,
found the birds in good health, but not totally waterproof.
This is probably due to the fact they were
on a barge, which they most likely mistook for an island,
Holcomb speculates. We want to make sure their feathers
are in perfect condition before we release them.
IBRRC's experience with Laysan Albatross is rather
extraordinary. Back in March of 1979, a Laysan Albatross,
whose wing feathers had been cut off, was found wandering
the streets of San Francisco. The bird, named "Munch"
because of its extremely aggressive behavior, made rehabilitation
history by being the first known albatross to have its feathers
replaced, a process known as imping. Munch was flown to Midway
Island, the major breeding place
of Laysans, and released.
Nine years later, a seabird biologist studying
a new breeding colony of about a dozen pairs of albatross
on Isla Guadalupe, a group of small islands off of Baja California,
noticed that one had a federal band. It was Munch. A week
later, a photo of Munch, sitting on an egg, arrived in the
mail. The discovery that Munch was alive, and a parent as
well, was a dream come true for the rehabilitators at the
Laysan Albatross, which have a wingspan of over
seven feet, are known to travel thousands of miles in search
of food. Although millions were killed for their feathers
in early 1900, the species is not considered endangered. However,
many chicks die due to the ingestion of plastics. Long-lines
also take a terrible toll on the birds.
The population of approximately 600,000 breeding
pairs spends their lives at sea, only coming on land to lay
a single egg, every year or every other year. They don't begin
breeding until eight years of age and then courtship lasts
two years. Mates meet up to lay a single soda-can size egg,
which they take turns incubating, sitting for as long as three
weeks while the other feeds at sea.
Once hatched, which can take as long as six days
of pipping, chicks can wait for two weeks for their parent
to return with a meal. Once fledged, they fly out to sea and
may never touch land again for years. Everything about them
is long, their wings, their courtship, their breeding seasons,
the distances they cover and their lives, which if they are
lucky, can last five decades or longer.
Magazine story on albatrosses
Lines, Short lives article on bird deaths from
long line fishing.
IBRRC's most famous Albatross and bird rehab project
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