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Albatross chicks settle in at Kahuku refuge after long trip

  • DENNIS ODA / 2019
                                Twenty-five black-footed albatrosses were transported from Midway Atoll, where 90% of the world’s black-footed albatross population lives, to Oahu. The James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge houses an albatross colony on the North Shore.

    DENNIS ODA / 2019

    Twenty-five black-footed albatrosses were transported from Midway Atoll, where 90% of the world’s black-footed albatross population lives, to Oahu. The James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge houses an albatross colony on the North Shore.

Another 25 black-footed albatross chicks have been transported from Midway Atoll to the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu’s North Shore.

The chicks made the 1,300-mile journey by plane in late February, and have now settled into their new home at the refuge in Kahuku, where they will be hand-fed fish and squid and assigned a shaded place to rest beneath wooden A-frames.

The translocation of the chicks is part of an ongoing effort to establish a new colony on Oahu to ensure the species’ survival in the face of sea level rise. which threatens their natural habitat in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Federal officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working with nonprofit partner Pacific Rim Conservation and others to establish a “Noah’s Ark” for threatened seabirds at James Campbell, which is on higher ground and on a 16-acre field enclosed by a predator-­proof fence in Kahuku.

This is the fourth year the team is translocating the black-footed albatross chicks.

“Midway Atoll is home to one of the largest black-footed albatross populations in the world,” said Midway Atoll acting refuge manager Steve Barclay in a news release. “As conservation managers, it is important we use good science to evaluate other options that might protect these seabirds into the future. Refuges like Midway Atoll and James Campbell provide the healthy habitat that black-footed albatross, and other seabirds, need to thrive.”

According to USFWS, 90% of the world’s black-footed albatross population nests and breeds on Midway Atoll, Laysan Island, and Tern Island, within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

All three are at very low elevation and predicted to be highly susceptible to storm surges and sea level rise in the coming century. The black-footed albatross are particularly at risk because they tend to nest along the shoreline, with no protection from coastal vegetation.

They are expected to fledge, and fly off to sea in four to five months. Juvenile albatross stay at sea for three to five years, and officials hope they will return to James Campbell to mate and breed.

“A lot of conservation work tends to be reactionary in nature, but there are some threats that we know about already, we know it’s going to be a problem,” said Pacific Rim Conservation’s director of aviculture, Robby Kohley in the release. “I think it’s important to be proactive about trying to address some of these threats before it’s an emergency.”

Other birds that have been translocated to the refuge include Laysan albatross, Tristram’s storm-petrels and bonin petrels.

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