The Day of the Layson Albatross

Sunday, January 22, 2017 – our third full day in Kauai. It’s cloudy and blustery today.

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We’re hanging out at Steph and Vic’s house contemplating plans for the day, when we hear a racket outside on the golf course. Albatross!

There’s three of them. One is waddling alone near the back patio

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While two more are engaged in an elaborate synchronized mating dance. I capture some of it on video:

The pair carried on for several more minutes. What a treat it was to witness! According to this link, Albatross courtship is unique among seabirds, both in its complexity and its duration. Males and females engage in a coordinated dance, facing each other, and what you are witnessing in my video is bill “clappering” (in which the bill is quickly opened and closed repeatedly); “sky calling” (in which the bird lifts its bill to the sky, uttering a call like the “moo” of a cow); and fanning the wings while prancing in place. These displays are performed in repeating cycles for up to an hour each, numerous times per day. This behavior allows potential mates to evaluate each others’ suitability as long-term partners.

Albatrosses appear to bond for life. After the initial courtship phase is over, the elaborate courtship rituals are much reduced or abandoned altogether in subsequent years. Researchers believe that this mating dance functions more in choosing a mate than in the long term maintenance of the pair bond.

Here is a youtube video with a closer view of the mating dance taken on Kauai on Valentine’s Day, 2015. Hmmmm. Considering the 50+ percent divorce rate in America, (higher for second and third marriages), maybe we should mimic the mating ritual of Albatrosses. Instead of lavishing our heart’s desire with valentines, chocolates, flowers, jewelry, and expensive dinners on Valentine’s day, we should engage each other in a face to face mating dance involving synchronized hoots, flings, grabs and bends, claps, slapping our teeth, strutting, and skyward calls in hour-long sessions, repeated throughout the day. You know, to test our compatibility with a new love interest. Plus, think of the added bonus of counting each step on our fit bits!

I Googled “Albatrosses on Kauai’ and came across this very interesting blog by Cathy Granholm, “My Albatross Diary” , documenting current news about the Layson Albatrosses in Princeville, Kauai. Cathy lives in Princeville from November to July. She has had an albatross nest in her yard for three years in a row. She monitors the Laysan albatross nests in yards and on golf courses throughout the community of Princeville. Her last blog was published on Jan 2, 2017, featuring Kirwan, the most photographed Albatross in Princeville. I wonder if my photo of the solitary albatross is Kirwan?

On the afternoon of that same day, Eric, David and I decided to take our favorite north shore Island hike, to Larsen’s Beach, home of a large nesting area for Albatross. The nesting area sits atop a rock cliff and is off limits to humans. We saw many Albatross flying overhead and I caught several photos. Whereas Albatross waddle and look clumsy when they walk, they are magnificently graceful sea birds when they fly. Here’s some of my photos of Albatross in flight:

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Of course, Larsen’s beach is also a napping spot for endangered monk seals and sunbathing sea turtles. We met both of these magnificent species on the beach as well. I have photos. And action videos. (Of napping monk seals?) You betcha. And of sunbathing sea turtles. Here, I’ll give you a teaser:

Okay, well, not a lot of action there. And the sea turtles will have to wait. Somehow their introduction here would pale against the captivating life-force of the Layson Albatross.

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2 Responses to “The Day of the Layson Albatross”

  1. david caraher Says:

    “After the initial courtship phase is over, the elaborate courtship rituals are much reduced or abandoned altogether in subsequent years.”
    —Sounds a lot like marriage in our species.

  2. Paullene Caraher Says:

    Wonderful article. You get an education while your on vacation!!
    Enjoyed this blog!!

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