Early Success for New Laysan Albatross Colony on O'ahu

A three-year project to establish a new Laysan Albatross colony on O‘ahu has gotten off to a successful start: Ten Laysan Albatross chicks successfully hatched and fledged from that island this year.

The project began as a way to solve a human-wildlife conflict situation on Kaua‘i, where a colony of Laysan Albatross nests at the Pacific Missile Range Facility. Each year, the U.S. Navy must remove all albatross eggs and adults from the facility's air safety zone to prevent potential collisions with aircraft.

Laysan Albatross chick by Daniel Lebbin

Laysan Albatross chick by Daniel Lebbin, ABC

Adult birds are taken to protected nesting colonies elsewhere on Kaua‘i, while most eggs are placed with albatross foster parents whose own eggs were infertile.

However, too few foster birds are usually available, which led to the idea of starting a new colony of Laysan Albatross on O‘ahu, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had acquired a parcel of land to expand wildlife habitat on the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge.

Laysan Albatross eggs from Kaua‘i were first transported to O‘ahu in December 2014 and incubated there until January 2015. After hatching, the eggs were placed with foster parents at nearby Ka‘ena Point, and at a month old, the chicks were moved to the refuge, where they continued to be fed and monitored as they grew.

Translocated Laysan Albatross chick fledging by Robby Kohley

Translocated Laysan Albatross chick fledging by Robby Kohley

By early July, all 10 chicks had fledged and flown out to sea, where they will live on the wing for the next three to five years as they grow to adulthood. The birds should return to their “birthplace” on the refuge to start nesting in five to eight years.

The next phase of this project will include raising and releasing more chicks, plus construction of a predator-proof fence at the refuge to protect the new colony from non-native predators such as feral dogs, cats, mongooses, and rats.

This project, led by Pacific Rim Conservation, draws upon the expertise and generosity of many partners, including ABC, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge System and Pacific Islands Coastal Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.