George and Geraldine (left) will not rear a chick in 2022; photograph by Jon Plissner, 20 January 2022
ACAP Latest News has been following the fortunes of George and Geraldine, the Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus pair on the USA’s Midway Atoll for several years (click here). To date they have successfully fledged three chicks since first meeting up in 2016, laying their most recent egg in October last year. However, there will be no chick leaving the island this year as reported on the Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge Facebook page.
“The current short-tailed albatross pair on Midway have successfully raised chicks for the past several years, always in the same location south of the runway on Sand Island. This year their routine was progressing as expected while scientists monitored the nest from a distance and with a remote camera, all while waiting for the egg to hatch when it normally does around January 1st. Though the actual hatching is generally not observed, the behavior of the attending parent clearly changes when there is a squirming chick under them instead of the egg. This year, it was noticed that a parent was still sitting firmly on the nest well after the 1st, which was not a good sign.
By January 8th, both parents were attending to the nest together, the female "Geraldine" on the nest with her mate "George" sitting alongside. Scientists were unable to get a view inside of the nest to discern the egg's status. With every passing day, it was less and less likely that the egg was viable.
This picture was taken by Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist Jon Plissner on January 20th, a first view to confirm that the egg had indeed failed. There are no guesses as to what might have happened.
Short-tailed albatross are endangered and were once even thought to be extinct. These two on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge are currently the only breeding pair outside of Japan and will hopefully return to have a successful egg again next year.”
John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 February 2022