Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses get counted for another year on the USA’s Kure and Midway Atolls

 Albatrosses Kure Atoll Cynthia Vanderlip
Breeding Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses on Kure Atoll, photograph by Cynthia Vanderlip

Breeding Black-footed Phoebastria nigripes and Laysan P. immutabilis Albatrosses  have once more been counted on two of  the USA’s Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NHWI) in the North Pacific.  They are Green Island, Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary and Sand, Eastern and Spit Islands, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.  Both fall within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, a large Marine Protected Area declared in 2006.

Kure count team 2024
Taking a meal together: the 2024 count team on Kure Atoll

Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary

The Kure Atoll Conservancy team has completed the annual albatross nest count on Green Island (the main island of the atoll) this month.  Caitlin Dudzik shares her experience summarized from her blog:

“We found them nesting on the beaches, on sand dunes, under naupaka shrubs Scaevola taccada, under heliotrope trees Heliotropium foertherianum, out in the open fields, right on top of Bonin Petrel Pterodroma hypoleuca and Tristram’s Storm Petrel Hydrobates tristram burrows, and under Red-footed Booby Sula sula and Black Noddy Anous stolidus perches.  We conducted counts in the blazing sun, in downpours, on windy days, on perfect weather days.  As soon as the sun came up and we could see, we headed out.”  The final counts totals were 33 126 Laysan Albatross nests, 3360 Black-footed Albatross nests, and no nests occupied by Short-tailed Albatrosses P. albatrus

Watch a video by Sarah Donahue of one of the first Black-footed Albatross chicks to hatch on Kure Atoll this season.

2024 count 1
Midway’s albatross nest counters gather for a photograph, by
Dan Rapp

Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

On Midway Atoll every year albatross nest counters “spend a few frenzied weeks trekking from one side of the atoll to the other.  These intrepid citizen scientists spend eight hours a day, six days a week hand-counting every albatross nest on Midway Atoll’s two islands”, as reported by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) volunteer Kyle Richardson (click here).

2024 count 2
Line abreast: “
citizen scientists” count Laysan Albatross nests on Sand Island, Midway Atoll, photograph by Dan Rapp

Annual counts commenced on Midway in 1991.  The 2024 breeding season yielded 29 562 Black-footed Albatross and 498 448 Laysan Albatross nests, along with a solitary Short-tailed Albatross nest on Midway’s Sand, Eastern and Spit Islands.

2024 count 3Nest counters traverse Eastern Island, photograph by Dan Rapp

In recent years, albatross nesting sites on Laysan Island and French Frigate Shoals within the Pahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument have become increasingly difficult to access, making the Midway counts all the more valuable.  Watch a video of the counting team in action here.

John Cooper, Emeritus Information Officer, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, 26 January 2024

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

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