Living Bird Magazine
Laysan AlbatrossPhoebastria immutabilis
- ORDER: Procellariiformes
- FAMILY: Diomedeidae
One of the most marvelous sights in the Pacific ocean is the graceful glide of a Laysan Albatross at play among the winds and waves. These expert soarers can travel hundreds of miles per day with barely a wingbeat. They nest on islands of the tropical Pacific, but they may head out to Japan, the Aleutian Islands, or California to feed. Laysan Albatrosses are numerous, though they face threats from longline fishing, plastic trash in the ocean, and predation by dogs, rats, and cats.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Laysan Albatrosses are pelagic birds of the open Pacific Ocean. Your best bet for finding one off the continental United States is to take a pelagic birding trip from the West Coast. Note that you are more likely to see Black-footed Albatrosses, but Laysan Albatrosses are fairly regularly seen as well. If you are in Hawaii, there are breeding populations on Oahu and Kauai where you can see the birds from land if you visit in the appropriate months (roughly November to July).
- Albatros de Laysan (Spanish)
- Albatros de Laysan (French)
- Cool Facts
- Laysan Albatrosses are masterful soarers, able to fly great distances and through the fiercest storms while barely even flapping their wings. To a large extent, the faster the wind blows the more maneuverable they are.
- One Laysan Albatross found its way back to Midway Island from the Philippines—a journey of 4,120 miles. Another made its way back to Midway from Washington state traveling at an average of almost 350 miles per day.
- Ever heard of a “tubenose” before? That’s the term birders and biologists use to describe albatrosses and their relatives (petrels, shearwaters, fulmars, and storm-petrels). These birds have a pair of bony tubes above or inside the bill that excrete salt—allowing these ocean-going birds to drink seawater without becoming dehydrated.
- When the wind is calm, albatrosses have trouble taking off. They typically need to face into the wind and run along the ground or water’s surface, wings spread, to take off; or to launch themselves from a high point.
- The Laysan Albatross gets its name from its Laysan breeding colony in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where it is the second most common seabird.
- Albatrosses’ amazing size and graceful flight led sailors to regard them as good luck. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a crewmember foolishly shoots an albatross, setting off a string of terrible misfortunes.
- You can also help albatrosses by reducing your use of plastics and making sure plastic litter goes into garbage cans. Discarded plastic ends up in the oceans, where albatrosses pick it up and eat it or feed it to their chicks.
- You can help albatrosses by avoiding unsustainably caught seafood. This includes fish caught by longline fisheries that do not use seabird-safe equipment. The Seafood Watch program offers convenient information and an app about sustainable seafood.
- Laysan Albatrosses live very long lives. They usually don’t start breeding successfully until they are 8 or 9. The oldest known individual was 65 years old, when she was identified in 2016 by the band on her leg while she was at her nest.