Mmmmm, Good...Calamari Again!

Gina Ruttle  (Whalegeek)

Palos Park, United States

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A Laysan albatross parent regurgitates a calorie laden meal of squid and stored oil to its growing chick.

The following is a brief video I created of Laysan albatross regurgitating squid and calorie-rich oil to its chick. If you listen closely, the calls of Laysan albatrosses can be heard….along with the clicking camera shutter of my husband! Sigh…oh well, it was a special moment in time.

As albatross chicks grow, their caloric demands increase. Gaining weight and looking like a gigantic fuzzy brown pineapple—-or a giant “stomach” as a naturalist friend, Wayne Sentman has described!—-young Laysan albatross chicks quickly grow, rapidly becoming able to subsist on stored fat while their parents venture forth on thousands-of-mile journeys in search of food. Often gone for up to two weeks at a time during this period, chicks wait patiently for their parents to return with meals of squid and rich stored oil.

Since albatrosses forage for food over immense distances for long periods of time the birds have developed a unique way of extracting oil from their prey and storing it to later feed it to their waiting chicks. The caloric value of stored oil is measured at c. 9600 calories per gram, interestingly slightly lower than that of diesel oil which has a very high caloric content. This is comparable to wolfing down the caloric count of nearly 18 Big Macs per gram! In other words, the oil these chicks is ingesting packs a wallop in the high calorie category.

Upon returning to Midway Atoll, parents zoom in on their chicks, somehow determining which one belongs to that particular parent in the midst of hundreds of thousands of other identical chicks. A few calls between parent and chick establishes their imprinted bond. Relentlessly pecking at the parent’s bill, the ravenous chick induces the parent to regurgitate a nutritious meal to its baby. Soon squid and the high calorie oil are streaming into the hungry chick’s mouth.

In this photo one can see the body of a recently caught squid plus golden oil being fed to the hungry little bundle of down.

Laysan Albatrosses are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Sand Island, Midway Atoll National WIldlife Refuge, Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Monument, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Territory of the United States of America

Canon 7D, Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS lens, Manfrotto tripod, Wimberley II tripod head, shutter 1/250, aperture f/4.0, Manual, focal length 175mm, ISO 100

May 6, 2010

Views: 362 (November 29, 2010)
Favorites : 22 (November 29, 2010)

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Artwork Comments

  • Ann  Van Breemen
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  • Gina Ruttle  (Whalegeek)
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