Albatross rescued after pigs destroy 60+ eggs at nesting site
A depredation event in which pigs destroyed or ate dozens of eggs from nesting albatross, is suspected as the cause of survival issues for at least one mōlī or Laysan Albatross.
The Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauaʻi reported that 64 mōlī eggs were “crushed or eaten by pigs on Nihokū, beginning on Dec. 22, 2022. The information was shared on the agency’s Facebook page earlier this month.
Just four days later, on Dec. 26, 2022, a Laysan Albatros was found waterlogged and struggling in waters off of Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauaʻi was rescued on Dec. 26, 2022.
Rescuers were able to safely capture the albatross and bring her to the Kaiakea Fire Station, where Save Our Shearwaters staff collected the bird.
Her numbered leg band allowed her to be identified as ANP081, an active nester, last seen incubating an egg at Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Dec. 22.
KPNWR confirmed that ANP081’s nest was one of the ones that had been depredated by a pig and say the depredation event is suspected to be the cause of the bird’s waterproofing issues. Wildlife officials say yolk from the bird’s destroyed egg would explain the light yellow substance found in her feathers.
“It was probably only a matter of minutes or hours before [the albatross] drowned,” said Howie Grene, one of bird’s rescuers. “The wings were all out,” according to Grene, who said the bird tried to keep afloat and had its head just barely above water and its body was submerged.
“It is vital that pelagic birds such as mōlī are completely waterproof prior to release,” said Jacqueline Nelson, Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager for Save Our Shearwaters, “otherwise, water can reach their skin causing them to become hypothermic or have difficulty taking flight off the water and foraging for food.”
As this patient was an active nester, time was of the essence to get her back into the wild as quickly as possible, according to the organization.
Trained staff completed an extensive wash procedure to remove any contaminants from ANP081’s plumage. She spent two additional days at the rehabilitation facility, where staff monitored her buoyancy and checked to ensure her feathers remained dry while pooling. After passing her final waterproofing and health evaluations, she was released successfully at Anahola Beach on Jan. 2.
US Fish and Wildlife Service staff, in coordination with Pacific Rim Conservation, have been working to finish expanding their predator-resistant fencing to encompass the area where these
mōlī nests are located. The fence is scheduled to be completed in just a few months.
Heather Abbey-Tonneson, Refuge Complex Manager for Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge said, “In addition to SOS, our partnerships with Pacific Rim Conservation, Pono Pacific, State of Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources, Kauaʻi Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, and American Bird Conservation on our nearly 2-mile predator-resistant perimeter fence will protect mōlī and other species on 168 acres.”
“While ANP081 lost her egg and nearly her life due an invasive predator, next year we hope she will return to her newly protected nesting site for a successful breeding season,” organization leaders said in an SOS news release.
Save Our Shearwaters is a nonprofit association that operates the only Federal and State permitted facility for native wildlife rehabilitation on Kaua‘i. They accept all native Hawaiian birds and the Hawaiian hoary bat.