Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Short-tailed Albatross breeding at Midway!

Short-tailed Albatross off Oregon in 2006 by Troy Guy
The photo above is of a young bird, 1 or 2 years old. These all-dark immature birds are what we expect off the West Coast of North America. This is the 9th accepted Oregon record of a bird off Newport, Oregon on March 18, 2006. Photo by Troy Guy.

Exciting news! A pair of Short-tailed Albatrosses is breeding on Midway Atoll! This is the first modern breeding record outside of Japan.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service has had decoys up on Midway Atoll NWR and been playing Short-tailed Albatross calls for several years. A pair of Short-tailed Albatrosses has visited the island annually for 4 years, and this year started incubating an egg in November.

Once numbering perhaps 5 million, these magnificent birds were killed on their nests and plucked and stuffed into pillows and mattresses until they were presumed extinct. In the first quarter of the 20th century perhaps only 10 pairs remained. They have since recovered to some 2400 birds.

Check out the news item and photos on the USFWS Flicker site.

With the above news of breeding on Midway, perhaps we can expect to see more of these in the future. Of course, it will take decades to notice the increase from this site, and most of the birds will probably still forage north in the Aleutians. But there is every reason for long-term hope that these birds will continue to recover.