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It’s Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Albatross Return to Midway Atoll

Albatross return to Midway Atoll to begin the breeding season. Conservationists are hopeful these threatened seabirds can be saved from predatory invasive species.

Albatross are philopatric seabirds, which means they return to their natal breeding colony every year to nest and raise new chicks. Midway Atoll is home to the largest Albatross breeding colony in the world and this year’s breeding season has just begun. Albatross are beginning to return home to nest.

This year’s nesting season began with a pair of Black-footed Albatross which were spotted flying overhead at Midway Atoll, and slowly more have begun to arrive, including Laysan and Short-tailed Albatross. This globally significant breeding colony is vital to the success of Albatross and other seabirds, but in recent years invasive house mice have been observed preying upon Albatross.

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Midway Atoll is the largest Albatross breeding colony in the world. Credit: Andy Collins/NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

Philopatric seabirds are particularly at risk. Since they are hard-wired to return to these natal breeding colonies, there is no option for escape from predation. Returning annually to these islands to breed where invasive species are preying on both adults and chicks is worrisome for the long-term success of populations.

Although invasive mice have been on Midway Atoll for decades, they have only been observed preying upon albatross and seabirds in recent years. Now the problem is widespread. The increased pressures of invasive mice resulted in injury, nest abandonment, and death for already threatened Albatross species. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and partners are working to develop a plan to protect these important seabirds from invasive predators on Midway Atoll.

If conservation intervention is implemented soon, these species could be safe on their home island once again.

Featured Photo: Two Black-footed Albatross on Midway Atoll. Credit: Dan Clark/USFWS
Source: US Fish and Wildlife Pacific Region

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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