For the 19thconsecutive winter period, a Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) known locally as Al, returned to the cove (loafing area) at Point Arena in Mendocino County, California. For those who like viewing seabirds but are prone to seasickness, here is an albatross you can watch from terra firma. Historically, this Laysan Albatross departs the Point Arena area anytime from late February to late March.
Laysan Albatross is a North Pacific species (found most abundantly in eastern Japan waters) breeding primarily on Laysan and Midway Islands (birds return in November) but recently they have been found breeding on islands off of western Mexico and on Bonin Island off of Japan. From 1955-1964, over 54,000 birds were killed by the U.S. Navy in an attempt to reduce strikes with aircraft. In very early 1900s, thousands of birds were killed for feathers and eggs in Japan waters until the practice was banned in 1909. The population has recovered and numbers are now thought to be between 1.2 and 1.4 million individuals. Fledglings often swim away from nesting islands where sharks have been reported to consume many. One shark’s stomach contents had 13 Laysan Albatross fledglings in it. Other current dangers to Laysan Albatross include gill netting for fish and the huge concentrations of ocean plastics said to be drifting in the Pacific Ocean from Japan towards western North America (Handbook of the Birds of the World, Volume 1).