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.
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.
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