Ocean of Hope

Wisdom the Albatross Has Hatched a New Chick!

Wisdom the Albatross
Wisdom the Laysan Albatross and her chick in 2018 photo by: USFWS

Hello, I’m Wisdom, a Laysan Albatross. I have exciting news! My chick has just hatched after about 2 months of incubation. My life partner, Akeakamai, and I have alternated sitting on the egg and feeding out at sea.

The average Laysan Albatross lives 50 years-I’m an exception as I’m at least 68 years old. I’m the oldest known wild bird! I was banded back in 1956 and estimated to be 5-6 years old since that’s when albatross start to lay eggs.

We, all 1 million albatross (of many species) lay our eggs and raise our chicks on Midway Atoll, just Northwest of Hawaii in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. It is a beautiful place that consists of two flat sandy islands of 2.5 square miles, turquoise water and a stunning coral reef. Up to 3 million seabirds lay eggs and raise their chicks there.

The biologist, Chandler Robbins, that originally banded me in 1956 later me found me in 2002, 46 years later! I have been returning to my birthplace to make a nest ever since. The biologists first noticed me making a nest with Akeakamai in 2006.

Most albatross don’t lay eggs every year– I guess that also makes me an exception as I have laid an egg every year! I may have raised up to 36 chicks in my 68 years of life, but who’s counting?

We can travel up to 10,000 miles just in search of food like squid and fish eggs, fish and crustaceans that are found on the top of the ocean.

We spend 90% of our lives at sea, only stopping to rest on the ocean waves.
I’ve clocked at least 6 million miles of flying.

Biologists found a chick I raised in 2001 nesting just feet from me in 2017. I wish I could recognize my former chicks, but they grow up so fast that I can’t recognize them as adults.

After about 5-6 months, my new chick will fledge and head out to sea to find food, living as I have for the past 68 years.

Note: Plastics and microplastics have become a huge problem in the world’s oceans. Birds like Wisdom ingest plastic and pass it on to their chicks when they feed them, but don’t know that they are doing so. Albatross like Wisdom have been found with bellies full of plastic, many dying from that. See previous post, “Alby the Albatross and Plastic, Plastic Everywhere in the Ocean”

10 Fabulous Facts About the Blue Footed Booby Bird

Blue Footed Booby Bird:Photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/brj_bringin_the_shit_up_in_here_bitches/7303186922/">BRJ INC.</a> via <a href="https://visualhunt.com/re/569bd2">Visual Hunt</a> / <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/"> CC BY-NC-ND</a>
Blue Footed Booby Bird :Photo credit: BRJ INC. via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

The blue footed what? The blue footed booby is a marine bird.

Don’t miss the blue footed booby bird mating dance video link below!

Here are 10 Fabulous Facts About the Blue Footed Booby Bird:

1. The male shows off his blue feet to the female when courting her. The bluer the feet, the more attractive he is to his potential mate.

2. The courtship dance by the male is very elaborate. Word don’t do it justice so here’s a a video on blue footed booby mating dance

3. The blue footed booby is 32-34 inches (81-86cm) high with a wingspan of 5 feet (1.5m). It weighs 3.25 pounds (1.5kg).

4. Blue footed boobies are expert hunters at sea. They will often dive from 80 feet high to catch fish underwater. They can also dive from a sitting position.

5. Both parents care for their chicks. They usually have 1-3 chicks at a time. A parent will cover their chick with their webbed feet to keep them warm.

6. Nestlings that are bullied go on to live happy and productive lives (they are easy to study because they have no natural predators and humans have never hunted them).

7. Blue footed boobies live off the west coasts of Central and South America, with half the breeding pairs living in the Galapagos Islands.

8. Young blue footed boobies have darker blue feet.

9. Their name is thought to come from the Spanish word “bobo” which means “stupid” or “clown.” They may look clumsy on land, but they far from stupid (maybe a bit bird-brained though).

10. Most blue footed boobies will live and breed within dozens of feet of where they were born.

Facts from National Geographic page on Blue Footed Boobies

Good article on Blue-Footed Boobies by the New York Times

10 Cool Facts About Penguins: Happy World Penguin Day!

Baby Emperor Penguin

1. There are 17-20 species of penguins worldwide.

2. The tallest penguin is the Emperor Penguin (3ft7in or 1.1m) which weighs 75lbs (35kg) or more.

3. The shortest penguin is the Little Blue Penguin or Fairy Penguin (16in or 40cm) which weighs 2.2lbs (1 kg).

4. Penguins have a thick layer of insulating feathers to keep themselves warm.

5. Penguins usually swim 3.7-7.5mph (6-12km/h) but have been clocked at 17mph (27km/h).

6. An Emperor Penguin has been measured to dive to 1,870 ft (565m) for 22 minutes.

7. Penguins can drink saltwater.

8. 1 in approximately 50,000 penguins are born with brown instead of black feathers (called isabelline)

9. A breeding colony can reach several hundred thousand penguins (King, Macaroni, and Chinstrap Penguins).

10. Only male Emperor Penguins solely incubate their eggs (other species share duties between females and males).

Are Seagulls Intelligent? Mine Mine Mine!

seagulls rats with wings
Meet Shanty the Seagull: photo by Cherilyn Jose

Hello, my name is Shanty the Seagull. Seagulls get a bad rap from humans. They have the nerve to call us rats with wings! That’s unfair not only to us, but to the rats who are at least intelligent to run all the mazes that human scientists set up.

One reason we appear filthy is because we have figured out that humans’ garbage dumps are a great source of food. One man’s waste is another animal’s treasure. This ingenuity, along with the precise aim of our guano (bird poop) has made us not so lovable. But we really are intelligent, especially for a bird.

We have figured out how to open tightly closed food such as clams and mussels. We use our aiming skills (perfected by aiming guano at human heads) to drop the unopened food from high above onto sharp rocks below.

Seagulls actually have a complex social structure, and we have different modes of communication. And you thought we were cawing just to be annoying! One seagull I knew even used a piece of bread as bait to catch a goldfish.

Our food from some garbage dumps is disappearing as humans have started to use their green food recycling bins. Some cities in the United States collect organic waste, such as food scraps, grass clippings, and food soiled paper (like pizza boxes). This green waste is taken to a commercial composting facility where it ultimately ends up as dirt.

My hope is that not all cities adopt a green waste program, but if they do, I am sure that seagulls will discover a new and easy source of food (or go back to hunting the old fashioned way, sigh).

Fun Fact: A Herring Gull can live to be 49 years old!
P.S. The “Mine, mine, mine” reference is from Finding Nemo!

Alby the Albatross and Plastic, Plastic Everywhere in the Ocean

albatross fledgling & plastic
Albatross chick stomach contents

That picture is not me, thank goodness. My name is Alby the Albatross, and it is nice to meet you. That was an albatross chick who most likely died from eating too much plastic. Hundreds of thousands of dead albatross chicks have been found with at least a third of their stomach full of plastic. Why would an albatross eat plastic? Unfortunately plastic is everywhere in the ocean now, not just in garbage patches. Every type of garbage imaginable makes it to the ocean. Remember what Gill tells Nemo in Finding Nemo? “All drains lead to the ocean, kid,” he said. There is so much garbage in general that remote tropical islands whose sand has only been touched by scuttling crabs and wayward seabirds have garbage engulfing their shores. Plastic is a threat to all ocean life, but the most insidious are the tiny plastic particles that microscopic plankton consume. Small fish eat the plankton and then successively larger fish eat each other until a predator like a shark nabs them. The shark then bioaccumulates, that is stores, all those plastic pieces in its body over time. Even humans carry a few pounds of plastic around in their bodies without knowing it!

The single most important thing you can do to relieve me and my oceanic friends from plastic in the ocean is to:
NOT BUY BOTTLED WATER! Use a reusable water bottle that you fill yourself with tap water, or filtered tap water. We thank you for helping us!