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Manu Minute: The Long-lived Laysan Albatross

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Alex Wang
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Since Laysan albatross mainly feed on fish eggs and squid near the surface of the ocean at night, they are especially prone to ingesting marine debris, which can cause them to die of starvation.

Special thanks to the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for today's field recordings.

Mōlī, or Laysan albatrosses, breed in large numbers across the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, with nearly a million birds counted on Midway island alone.

Mōlī largely disappeared from the main Hawaiian islands long ago. They nest on the ground in large colonies, which makes them extremely vulnerable to predators, including rats, dogs and humans.

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Credit Alex Wang
Laysan albatross have wingspans greater than six feet. They have mostly bright white heads and bodies, with charcoal black wings and pinkish bills and feet.

But in the past few decades there have been successful efforts to reintroduce them to Kauai and Oahu.

Since mōlī return to land every year during the beginning of makahiki season, they are associated with the god Lono.

Aside from breeding season, they spend most of their time soaring over the open ocean. They are incredibly graceful in flight, but a bit clumsy on land, which earned them the nickname "gooney birds."

Mōlī find their first mate around the age of seven. They are monogamous and remain with their mate for life unless one of the pair dies. That's quite a commitment when you consider that mōlī can live for decades.

One female Laysan albatross, Wisdom, made headlines this month for hatching a new chick just after her 70th birthday.

Patrick Hart interests in the ecology and conservation of Hawaiian forests and forest birds stem from years of living in a primitive field camp as a graduate student in the 1990’s at Hakalau Forest National wildlife refuge.
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