Wednesday, July 14, 2010
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.
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!