Two new Laysan albatross chicks have hatched on Oahu’s North Shore.
The North Shore Community Land Trust said the two chicks hatched on Monday at Kahuku Point, marking a milestone after adults have attempted to nest in the area for the past five years without success. The birth of the chicks signals hope for the long-term goal of establishing a new colony on Oahu.
Laysan albatrosses, or Phoebastria immutabilis, are listed as a near threatened species on the IUCN Red List. Chicks generally hatch from late January to mid-February, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and fledge after five to six months.
Albatross chicks imprint on their home when they a month old, and usually return to the same area to lay their eggs.
“While Laysan albatrosses nest on Oahu and Kauai, the vast majority of nesting occurs on low-lying atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands where populations are vulnerable to sea-level rise,” said Sheldon Plentovich, the Pacific Islands Coastal Program Coordinator for the USFWS, in a news release. “Already, storm surges wipe out thousands of nests each year. Creating safe, predator-free nesting habitats on high islands is the key to the long-term survival of this and several other seabird species.”
Historically, Laysan albatross did nest in the main Hawaiian islands, according to Eric VanderWerf, director of science at Pacific Rim Conservation, but were wiped out by non-native predators such as mongoose, feral cats and rats.
The coastline at Kahuku Point where the chicks hatched has been under restoration since February 2015, according to the North Shore Community Land Trust, which in 2015 played an instrumental role in helping to preserve 630 acres of open space along five miles of coastline between Kahuku Point and Kawela Bay.
Volunteers have worked for year to stabilize the dunes and remove invasive species at Kahuku Point, one of the few remaining places on Oahu with intact coastal strand habitat that includes ohai, yellow-faced bees, Hawaiian monk seals, and nesting green sea turtles.
They have also worked with the USFWS’s Pacific Islands Coastal Program, Hawaii Marine Animal Response, and Turtle Bay Resort to control predators of the birds, primarily mongooses, using humane traps.
“Restoring land that we’ve helped conserve is a key part of our mission,” says executive director Adam Borello in a news release. “When the community comes together with the support of partner organizations, we see what a tremendous impact it can make. The return of the Laysan albatrosses shows how important it is to preserve these special places on the North Shore.”
Visitors to the area are asked to keep their distance from the albatross, and to make sure their dogs are on a leash. Volunteers are currently monitoring four other Laysan albatross nests nearby, and hope to see more hatchlings within the next week.
Concurrently, state officials announced Tuesday that albatross numbers at Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve continue to climb after a predator-proof fence went up in 2011. In the 2018 season, 106 albatross pairs attempted to breed, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
DLNR reminded visitors that dogs, even on a leash, are illegal to bring to Kaena Point because they frighten nesting birds and have caused mass deaths of seabirds in the past. Visitors should stay on marked trails and observe wildlife, respectfully, from a distance.