satellite view from PMNM
E komo mai; welcome! Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is surrounded by a lei of foam in the middle of the North Pacific; it's a beautiful, special place.

Not only are there albatross on Midway, but many other interesting kinds of wildlife, both on the land and in the sea. Please enjoy exploring FOAM, an educational blog actively done while on Midway from May through August 2010. Posts are added from off-Midway, as information becomes available. If you're interested in a particular topic, please use the search box or the alphabetical list of "labels" along the left side of the blog page.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Feather Phenomenon

My friends Katie and Thea told me about the feather phenomenon.

So I went to investigate.  Yep; there they were: I could see many feathers sticking out of the sand all along the beach.  You can see three in front of this Laysan Albatross.

Over the years I've seen lots of feathers along many beaches, but they've always been lying down flat on the sand.  I've never seen even one feather stuck point down into the beach...unless someone did it on purpose.

Katie and Thea said they didn't do it; so who did?

My friends sat on the beach...quietly...for awhile...very patiently...until they saw...a crab take a feather, point first, down into its hole!  Ah haaaaa!  That's it!  The crabs are sticking the feathers into the beach!  But why?  Do crabs like to decorate their neighborhoods?

crabs browsing the tide line
I thought maybe the crabs were eating the feathers.  I decided to spend some time sitting on the beach and observe very patiently, just like Katie and Thea.  And I did notice crabs hanging around feathers.  But it seemed to me that the crabs weren't eating feathers; they seemed to be eating tiny scraps of food from the tide line on the beach.

And then a whole handful of feathers floated in.  They were all attached to a rotting piece of Laysan Albatross skin, I think.  The crabs seemed to get closer and closer to the feather mass.  Finally, one hopped onto the feathers and began eating; yum!

Have a look at the 8 feathers in these pictures.  I pulled the 4 top feathers out of the beach; the bottom 4 came from the mass of feathers that had washed ashore.  Is it my imagination, or do the beach feathers looked "chewed up," both the feather edges and the pointed quill ends?

I think crabs are pulling feathers into their holes just like we bring take-out food to our homes!


unclety said...

I wonder if this happens on other sandy beaches with ghost crabs.

Barb said...

I wonder too. These crabs here on Midway are "ghost" crabs. They must be a different species here in the Pacific, but still related to their "cousins" in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and probably elsewhere in the world. So, yeah, I wonder if ghost crabs all over the world have feather take-out food!

sbo said...

Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never sbo
seem to get there! Many thanks.