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Albatross Nesting Season 2023

November 2022

Our first arrivals are here!!

Early Saturday morning there were two, then three, by mid-week seven and as of today 14. 

Who are these majestic sea birds? They are the Laysan albatross. The adult male birds almost always arrive first and patiently await the arrival of their female mate. 

She may keep him waiting a day, a week, or even two weeks before she arrives. But when she does her mate is ecstatic. On his feet squealing and bobbing up and down in delight at just the sight of her gliding overhead and finally coming in for landing. Before her webbed feet have touched the ground he is waddling at sprinting speed in her direction! This is the first time they've seen each other in months, since the closure of last nesting season.

laysan albatross

This handsome albatross was our first arrival for the 2023 season. He patiently awaits the arrival of his mate who he has not seen for several months.

A Preview of what's to come this season

November through February 

Early November the adult birds return solo to their nesting grounds. They await their mate and reconnect. We've seen eggs as early as Thanksgiving but typically it's the month of December when each mating pair will lay their one egg for the season.

Average incubation period is 60 days so by very late January and through February the chicks will hatch. Absolute cuteness!

January is also when the juvenile birds (3 to 7 year olds) return for "party season". They sing, dance, start to court and observe the raising of the chicks. You can bet Lola will get amazing videos of their dance offs, no other bird species is this groovy!

laysan albatross nesting

Albatross pair with their newly hatched chick (last season)

March through July

These 5 months put Mom and Dad to the test. 3000 mile round trip flights for fresh North Pacific squid. All this work just to feed their growing chick. 

March kicks off our annual Name That Chick Contest! Keep an eye out for the contest announcement. 

By July the chicks are fully grown and fledge to their new home, the vast North Pacific Ocean. The chicks will spend the next 3 to 5 years living life at sea. They will not touch land and live in the open ocean before returning to Kauai one Spring as a young juvenile. 

We are so EXCITED to share this albatross season with you! 

December 2022

We have had an exciting few weeks in the colony. Multiple birds have been arriving daily and reuniting with their mates. We are thrilled to report that we already have 25 nests! This means 25 mating pairs (50 birds) have reunited and laid their one egg for the season. We have veteran nesters, first-time nesters and birds that have been widowed who have after many seasons finally found love in a new mate.

albatross nesting pair

Remember our handsome first arrival? He now stands proudly next to his mate on their nest.

Once a pair reunites they preen each other, snuggle and mate before both taking flight out to sea once again where they will feed. The female will return first, build a nest and lay their egg. She will then incubate the egg until her mate returns. His feeding trip is critical, he will need to gorge on enough squid in order to sustain himself for nest duty. Once he returns and takes his place on the nest his mate will depart for sea to feed and replenish her body. Her feeding trip may last for over a month! Her mate will survive by fasting off the squid in his belly and hydrating from passing rain showers. Truly astonishing!

Egg Adoption Day

Every year in mid December a very special task is completed in our albatross colony - egg candling. An expert team of biologists arrive and we go nest by nest to confirm the fertility and viability of each egg.  

One biologist carefully removes the egg from under the nesting bird, hands it off to a second biologist who then swiftly candles the egg inside a wearable dark room. 

If the egg is deemed fertile it is returned to the nest and the parent happily settles back down on their egg. Eggs that are not fertile are removed and a fertile "adoptive egg" is returned to the nest in its place. The adoptive egg is almost always immediately accepted by the nesting parent.

albatross egg candling

Biologists candling egg inside wearable darkroom to determine if egg is fertile.

Where do these "extra" fertile eggs come from? 

The Pacific Missile Range Facility is located on the West side of Kauai. And yes, some albatross have even chosen to nest there, creating a huge air traffic collision hazard. Biologists with the USDA Wildlife Services monitor the birds nesting at that location, removing and then incubating any eggs found to be fertile. These eggs are then re-homed into nests with infertile eggs in protected albatross colonies on the north shores of Kauai and Oahu.

We are beyond grateful for the collaboration of federal, state and private entities that make this egg adoption program possible.

albatross adoptive eggs

Adoptive eggs are transported in a protective and heated cooler. 

This season only two nesting pairs in our colony had infertile eggs. This is a great improvement from last years seven infertile eggs and is likely attributed to the fact that many of our veteran pairs that took last season off from nesting are nesting this season.

We are about 34 days out from the earliest possible egg hatch for our colony.  Absolute cuteness will start hatching late January!

January 2022

The albatross chicks are hatching! On the morning of Jan 21st we were blessed with the sight of the most adorable ball of feathers and the sound of the softest little peeps. The first chick in our colony had hatched! 

albatross chick hatch

Momma bird bird stands proudly in her nest protecting her newest offspring. 


Over the next couple of weeks more chicks will slowly start to emerge from their egg shells. Their little beaks begin to tap tap tap away at their egg until they break free.

The "pip" is the first little puncture or hole made by the chick to the outside world. It then takes 2 to 3 days for the chick to slowly chip away at its eggshell and fully hatch.

How do they do this? The chicks each have a temporary "egg tooth" on their bill. This is used like a little saw to make their grand entry.

The parent on the nest does not physically assist with the eggshell chipping but lovingly encourages the chick. Peering into the egg pip, gently tapping the eggshell and making soothing chatter to their new offspring.

The newborn chicks are the cutest balls of fluffy white and gray feathers and will stay nestled under Mom or Dad for warmth and protection for a few weeks time.

What are you most excited to see or hear about this nesting season? Let us know in the comments below.

8 Comments

Sharon Haller

I’m excited to hear everything. I’ve heard about these babies but never knew anything about them

Micheal Rinaker

Thanks for your delightful article & caring for these wonderful birds.

Louise Haydon

WHOOOOO-HOOOO have been waiting for this news and looking forward to the next few months watching all the goings on, on the cliff,,, Mahalo Lola
love from cold KY.

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