Laysan Albatross (Diomedea immutabilis)


It has always been said that whilst on the ocean you could predict that land is near after sighting a bird. Which is true in most cases, however, sighting an Albatross is no sign of land. These birds are known to be the “nomads of the ocean” and will usually only go on land to breed. They can spend years out on the ocean. The Laysan Albatross is found in the northern parts of the Pacific Ocean, the islands surrounding Hawaii and at times it has been seen in the Gulf of Alaska.

The Laysan Albatross (Diomedea immutabilis) is predominantly white of color, with black upper wings and black mantle. There is dark plumage surrounding the eye, with a yellowish beak that has a dark tip. The Laysan Albatross is 79 to 81 centimeters in length and has a wingspan of 195 to 203 centimeters. These large ocean birds can weigh up to 11 kilograms.

Being surface feeders, the Laysan Albatross will feed on crustaceans, squid, flying fish eggs and fish. They are nocturnal feeders, and will generally hunt for food during the night. Although they are extremely awkward on land, due to them only going on land once a year, they are graceful and elegant in flight. The albatross is so in tune with the ocean winds, that it is able glide over the ocean without flapping its wings for hours or even days sometimes. It is also known that the albatross can sleep while in this graceful state of flight.

The Laysan Albatross mates for life. Each year the pair will meet at their nesting ground, and will only take a new partner if its mate happens to die. The albatross will construct the nest from shrubbery, grasses and dirt that is piled together to form a cup. The Laysan Albatross females will begin laying their eggs in mid-November. The female will only lay one egg and might incubate the egg for the first few days, but the incubation period of 65 days is generally taken care of by the male. If for some reason the eggs should break or be infertile, the female will not lay another egg for that year.

The albatross chicks will hatch in January or mid February. Both the male and female albatross will feed their chick. The chick is capable of surviving the absence of its parents, as the squid it eats and the chick’s stomach oil contains nutrients and fatty acids that prevents the chick from starving. The chick will fledge the nest at about 5 to 6 months, but most parents return to the sea long before their chick has grown its juvenile plumage. The first mating and nesting period takes place between the ages of 6 to 8 years, and the sub-adults will spend their first three to five years out on the ocean. The Laysan Albatross can live to the rich old age of about 40 to 60 years.