There have been four Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatrosses Phoebastria albatrus observed on Kure Atoll in the North Western Hawaiian Islands since the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) held its first winter field camp on the island in 2010. Most notable is the pair that attempt to breed on the west end of the abandoned United States Coast Guard runway. The adult-plumaged bird (13A 0703) was banded as a chick on Torishima, Japan by Hiroshi Hasegawa in 1993. The intermediate phase bird (13A 1456) was also banded on Torishima as a chick in 2000. They are assumed to be a female - female pair because in both 2010 and 2011 their single nest contained two eggs. Each year the pair incubated the eggs for almost two months before failure. Click here to read more about these previous breeding attempts.
The older partner of the female-female pair with their two eggs on Kure Atoll in 2010
Photograph by Cynthia Vanderlip
This November the two females have returned to the same nest site and have laid two eggs in one nest as before. The younger bird's band (13A 1456) has been confirmed. The older bird has been observed but its band has not yet been read.
It is possible that the eggs could be fertile this time because other Short-tailed Albatrosses have been routinely observed on Kure. From 23 January to 23 March this year a Short-tail (13B-5132) was present in the same area as the female pair (click here). Another bird uniquely identifiable by its plumage was photographed during this same period near the camp, but its band could not be read.
Previous to the newly-established DLNR winter camps on Kure there have been only two other sightings of Short-tails on the atoll. An intermediate-phased bird was photographed at the end of the 2009 DLNR camp and another bird was photographed during a 1994 winter camp.
It might be time for the DLNR to begin active management of Short-tails on Kure Atoll. In 2000 biologists on Midway Atoll began to entice Short-tailed Albatrosses to Eastern Island with decoys and a sound system to project STAL vocalizations. And in 2011 they had success, their first chick, followed by a second this year (click here), both which successfully fledged.
Cynthia Vanderlip, Kure Atoll Seabird Sanctuary, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, 29 November 2012