Laysan Albatross

An albatross with chick

Holy Mōlī ! The Laysan Albatross of Ka’ena Point, O’ahu

The Laysan Albatross, mōlī, gets its name from its Laysan breeding colony in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. From November through July is the only time the LaysanAlbatross will be found on land, nesting and raising their young. On O’ahu, hike out to Ka’ena Point Natural Area Reserve. There are over 400 mōlī spending the nesting season here. The reserve can also be seen from our pelagic birding charters.

blackfooted and laysan albatross at Kaena Point Oahu

There are two kinds of albatross in Hawaii: the ka`upu, or blackfooted albatross (Phoebastria nigripes-rare on the left in photo), and the moli, or Laysan albatross (P. immutabilis-endangered on the right in photo). With only nesting ground on Oahu at Kaena Point. These amazing birds have been recorded to fly as far as 2,000 miles in one day in search of food. One of the favorite foods of the albatross is the eggs of the malolo (flying fish) and squid.

While not the largest of albatross, the Laysan wingspan is approximately 6.5ft and they may weigh as much as 5-9 pounds. Its range extends to most of the north Pacific Ocean. These albatross are white with a black tail and upper wings, dark patterns under the wings, with a black patch around the eye and pink bills, legs and feet.

They begin breeding and nesting in November, chicks usually start fledging in June and through July (very occasionally a late hatcher will leave in August). They can stay out at sea for as long as five years before returning to the same island on which they were born. They have elaborate courtship dances, and once mated they tend to remain faithful to their mate. In adulthood they rendezvous each year with their partner at the same nest site. Nesting time is the only time they spend on land, and each year the pair stays just long enough to hatch and raise a single chick.

Laysan Albatross pelagic birding oahu

On land, albatross are very awkward and often have difficulty taking off and landing. This has gained them the nickname of “Goony Bird”. Although albatross may be awkward on land, they are graceful and impressive in flight. An albatross in flight can be so perfectly attuned to wind conditions that it may not flap its wings for hours, or even for days, as it can sleep while flying. It takes advantage of the air currents just above the ocean’s waves to soar in perpetual graceful motion.

Albatross are the longest living birds on the planet. They usually don’t start breeding successfully until they are 8 or 9. In 2023″Wisdom the Albatross” on Midway Atoll was documented at 72 years old. She was banded as a breeding adult in 1956 which would indicate she was at least 5 years old then.

Wisdom and Akeakamai in 2015

Wisdom and Akeakamai in 2015 @Kiah Walker USFWS

  • You can also help albatrosses by reducing your use of plastics and making sure plastic litter goes into garbage cans. Discarded plastic ends up in the oceans, where albatrosses pick it up and eat it or feed it to their chicks.
  • You can help albatrosses by avoiding unsustainably caught seafood. This includes fish caught by longline fisheries that do not use seabird-safe equipment. The Seafood Watch program offers convenient information and an app about sustainable seafood.

Laysan Albatross on Wikipedia

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