The Awkward & Elegant Laysan Albatross

Laughing Albatross
Laughing Albatross

I’ve been able to see the Laysan Albatross in flight and on the ground, during nesting season on Kauai. It’s incredible, the difference between their graceful movements in the air and the klutzy way they waddle on land!

Watching a Laysan albatross fly is like watching air ballet. They can turn their bodies completely perpendicular to the ground mid-flight. They glide effortlessly along the coastlines of Kauai, catching the sun – and a few fish here and there. The birds spend most of the year at out at sea and a group of them return to Kauai every year to nest. You’ll see them flying overhead if you walk the Kauai Coastal Path in Kapaa during the winter months.

You can also find them waddling around in one specific neighborhood on Kauai’s north shore. There, the endangered birds live among neighborhood residents. They nest near driveways, under mailboxes in the center of cul-de-sacs. They mate and raise their chicks in this neighborhood, where residents have named them and made little signs to post near their nests. Check out this photo of I took of little Pela, who is probably 3 or 4 years old now, in 2022.

These gorgeous seabirds are as graceful in the sky as they are uncoordinated on land. They waddle with unpracticed feet over pavement and through grass, like bowling pins about to fall over!

While there are several groups of Laysan Albatross that nest on Kauai, the main place you’ll find them is on the Midway Atoll. They nest by the hundreds out there, in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. That island is also home to the world’s oldest bird – a Layasan Albatross named Wisdom. Wisdom recently turned 70 years old and returned to Midway to hopefully hatch another chick!

Interested in purchasing prints of these or some of my other photos?
Email me at thejessicaelse@gmail.com

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