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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, January 17, 2005

Midway's albatross population stable

Advertiser Staff

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that its winter census of albatross nests in the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge indicates stable populations of Laysan and black-footed albatrosses.

Nineteen volunteers conducted the nest count from Dec. 15 to Jan. 3. The census has been done five times over the past 13 years on three islands — Midway, Laysan and French Frigate Shoals — that are part of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

In the latest count, Laysan albatross nests numbered 408,133 on Midway, 140,861 on Laysan and 3,226 on French Frigate Shoals, while black-footed albatross nests numbered 21,829 on Midway, 21,006 on Laysan and 4,259 on French Frigate Shoals. There are also small colonies of Laysan albatrosses in the main Hawaiian Islands.

Midway, the largest albatross colony in the world, has 73 percent of the global population of Laysan albatross and 35 percent of the global population of black-footed albatross. Since each nest represents two parents and there are many nonbreeding birds, the actual total populations are more than double the number of nests.

The volunteer nest-counters ranged in age from 31 to 79, and included scientists from Japan and people from Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington, and Washington, D.C., according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The group also conducted other work on the islands, including removal of invasive plants and planting of native varieties, trail clearing, and maintenance, and returned to Honolulu on Jan. 8.