Maggie Prevenas, April 10, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 10, 2007

Albatross often mate for life. Photo by Maura Naughton
Albatross often mate for life. Photo by Maura Naughton

Species Profile: Laysan albatross: Diomedea immutabilis

One bird that we expect to find up here in the western part of the Bering Sea is the Laysan Albatross. This is one beautiful bird, large creamy white, and so elegant! It breeds in the Hawaiian Islands, mostly in the isolated Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). My students have a great connection to the Bering Sea with this animal as it flies from those small Hawaiian islands all the way up here to find food. They will have the chance to study its diet when they dissect boluses from the chicks bred on Tern Island in the French Frigate Shoals of the NWHI archipelago later on this quarter.

Where can you find the Laysan Albatross?

The Laysan Albatross breeds on isolated islands in the central Pacific Ocean, but is found throughout the northern oceans during all times of the year. They are most commonly seen in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands flying low over the waves searching for food.

How large are they?

Laysan Albatrosses are among the largest of all flying birds, having a wingspread greater than 2m (6 ft), but weighing only 10 kg (22 lbs).

What do they eat?

Laysan Albatrosses are specialized feeders on schooling fish and snatch unwary victims from just under the surface. They also eat squid, flying fish eggs, and most unfortunately, lots of plastic marine debris.

What’s pelagic mean?

Birds and other animals that spend most of their lives at sea, and use land only to breed are called pelagic. Once hatched, albatrosses will return to land only to breed, the rest of their life is spent at sea.

How do they sleep?

They sometimes are seen asleep on the water but this makes them easy targets for killer whales and hunters. Most albatrosses apparently sleep while gliding in the air.

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