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.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tube Nose and Eye Shadow -- Ready for Life at Sea

Auntie Moana hasn't been seen around Midway lately; I think she's been one of the many Laysan Albatross that have flown away to the North Pacific for the next several months.

This picture shows P303, Auntie Moana's chick named `Ōpua.  He is still on the island; I saw him just this morning on my way to work.  He was along the roadside, having moved completely out of his nest area.  He's not going to be here much longer.  He'll be getting hungry, and will need to fly off, just like his mother, to feed in the North Pacific Ocean!  Notice how much he now looks like the adult Laysan Albatross in the next picture.  True, `Ōpua still has a little fluffy down on his head, among the new white feathers.

Notice also that `Ōpua's bill isn't the nice yellowish color like the adult bird.  So, he's still got awhile before he becomes fully adult.

Look at those bird bills more closely.  Can you see the nostrils close to the eyes?  Can you see that there are little tubes leading from the bill to the nostril opening?  That's why albatross belong to the bird group called the Tube-Nosed Marine Birds.  And those tubes are very useful for these marine birds.  Inside the tubes are special organs that help albatross (and other tube-nosed birds) drink seawater; wow!  We humans can't drink seawater.  Well, one swallow won't hurt you, but if you drank a lot, it would make you sick.  But albatross can drink seawater because the organ in their nose is like an extra kidney: it filters out the salt from the water, and then the albatross can sneeze away the salt!

Here's something else to notice about albatross faces.  Do you see the dark shadow near their eyes?  That helps them see in bright daylight.  As albatross fly over the ocean, they get a lot of sunlight shining off the ocean up into their eyes.  The dark feathers around their eyes absorb the light and make it easier for them to see.  Baseball and football players put black grease under their eyes for the same reason: to see better!

`Ōpua has his tube nose and his "eye shadow;" he's ready for life at sea!

No comments: