If you want to hang out with me, your best bet is visiting Midway Atoll. This tiny island is home to the biggest group of us in the world—it’s essentially a big family reunion! We manage to cram over 450,000 nesting pairs (that’s nearly 1 million birds), into just a 2.4 square-mile area by nesting in every available nook, from abandoned WWII gun turrets to grassy cracks in the pavement.
After having been severely threatened by feather hunters, our populations have since recovered to about 600,000 breeding pairs. But that doesn’t mean we’re in the clear: We are seriously threatened by marine plastics. When we’re out at sea foraging for food to feed our chicks, we often ingest plastics by mistake (yuck). Then we return to regurgitate this food-and-plastic mixture for our chicks and they eat it too! Chicks often die because of starvation, stomach rupture or asphyxiation from the plastics. Each year, approximately 4.5 tons (nearly 10,000 pounds) of plastics are brought to Midway Island not by currents or wind, but in our stomachs!
Did You Know?
When young albatrosses are old enough to leave the nest (at about 5 1/2 months), they spend the next three years at sea! They will sleep and eat at sea, not touching land for years.
One thing you should know about me: I’m quite the romantic. Writer Noah Strycker puts it best: “There’s love, then there’s albatross love.” Not to brag, but we might have one of the most intense love affairs on the planet.
Most of us mate for life and are incredibly dedicated to our partners. We also take courtship very, very seriously: we can spend years learning the right mating rituals to attract the perfect mate. Once I encounter a potential partner, I engage in an elaborate dance that involves tapping my feet close together, pointing my beak at the sky, extending my wings and calling to the sky. It’s not unusual for us to engage in a few dances before deciding on our partners, but once we’re matched, we will stay faithfully by each other’s side until death.
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- Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial