Biology of the Tern Island Albatrosses go_back.gif (823 bytes)
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The Laysan and black-footed albatrosses on Tern Island are pretty typical albatrosses.  Much of their biology is like what is described in Albatrosses at Work.  Most albatross species nest in the Southern Hemisphere, and Laysan and black-footed albatrosses are two of only four species that are found outside the so-called "Southern Ocean".  The other two species are the waved albatross, nesting in the Galápagos Islands, and the short-tailed albatross, nesting on islands near Japan.  Being closer to the Equator than most albatrosses means that Laysan and black-footed albatrosses have more problems with heat than some other albatrosses do.

Some tidbits about the two species on Tern Island:

Laysan albatross

black-footed albatross

Scientific name

Nests  on Tern I.

Date of egg hatching

Their favorite foods

Diomedea immutabilis

about 1,700

late-January

Squid (click here to see)

Diomedea nigripes

about 1,700

mid-January

Fish and fish eggs


Tiger shark attacking fledgling albatrossEvery year, at the end of the nesting season, the young albatrosses take their first flight to the sea.  When they leave the nest, we say that they "fledge" and that the birds are "fledglings".  The young albatrosses do not return for several years after that.   Some of them don't return at all because they are eaten by sharks.  Every year at fledging time, great numbers of tiger sharks gather in the lagoon in the middle of French Frigate Shoals atoll.  They wait for the fledglings to hit the water on their first flights and then they attack!   The lucky fledglings, and the fast ones, escape.  About 10% of the fledglings every year become shark food, after all that work that the parents did to raise their babies.  Check out the Hawaiian tiger shark below and you can see why albatrosses have trouble with them!


Tiger shark and scientist, Midway Island, Northwest Hawaiian Islands.
Photos: Paul Sievert

This page was last updated on February 10, 1999 09:21 AM