While visiting a friend on Oahu’s Northshore, I was informed of an albatross sanctuary I was not aware of that is open to the public. It takes a very motivated public though, it is a 6 mile hike on a dirt road and sandy beach. Ka’ena Point is the most isolated/least visited beach on Oahu, which makes it the perfect place for the albatross to nest. While we were there the Laysan albatross (Moli in Hawaiian) were nesting.
They have over 6ft wingspans and weigh from 5 to 9 pounds. They can live over 50 years and fly as far as 2,000 miles in a single day! These magnificent birds can stay out at sea for up to five years before returning to their birthplace to mate. In fact, that is the only time they ever spend on land! They often don’t even touch land for over a year and tend to feed at night on squid, flying fish eggs and other sea life found near the surface.
As you walk though this amazing place, the residents will circle around you, watching you and making sure you know they are there. They rarely flap but can use the wind to fly at breath taking speeds.
On land, albatross are very awkward and often have difficulty taking off and landing. This has gained them the nickname of “Goony Bird”. This parent had a stare off with us to let us know we were close enough to the nest. It is illegal to harass these birds in any way so you need to wait for them to move on if they are on the trail as this one was. Eventually it moved on. I say “it” because both parents spend time guarding the nests so I’m unsure what parent this is.
This is the little treasure they were guarding…
The parents will leave the chicks for up to several days to fish to provide food for them. This little one looks pretty well fed.
This is a very windy point and as the winds started to really pick up, this little guy decided to stretch his wings and see if he was ready for flight. I think his wings are still a little too short!
Although albatross are so awkward on land, they are graceful and impressive in flight. An albatross in flight can be so perfectly attuned to wind conditions that it may not flap its wings for hours, or even for days, as it can sleep while flying. It takes advantage of the air currents just above the ocean’s waves to soar in perpetual graceful motion.
While some of the nests are out in the open, others are hidden in the bushes that surround the sanctuary.
A note: I have a very large lens and am not as close to these birds as it appears. This parent did notice us and came out to check us out but she never appeared to be stressed by our presence.
Here’s what I believe to be a courtship ritual of a few of the younger generation trying to impress a possible mate with an elaborate dance…
To protect this magical place, a huge fence has blocked off this point from any predators and dogs are not allowed anywhere at this park. The fence goes underground into concrete and is over 8 feet tall, built to prevent rats and mongoose from getting in and eating the eggs or baby chicks. You can only enter via a heavy self closing door at a few locations. You can see the fence in the background in this overview picture.
Parents take turns patrolling the area and watching out for any threats.
I cannot recommend this place enough if you are a bird lover or just need a break from the what often seems ever present crowds of Oahu. If you go, just make sure to bring lots of water, sunscreen, your camera, binoculars, and don’t leave anything of value in your car. Oahu trails are notorious for break ins, especially rental cars. Hope you enjoyed this and have a great Sunday!