Decades from now

When the birds are all gone

When their bodies have decayed

The waste of this generation

Will remain

Is this for posterity?

Is this our legacy?

_______________________

This was inspired by the film, Midway. www.midwayfilm.com/

It is a touching documentary about the Midway island that is home to 1.5 million albatrosses and many other species of wildlife. However, the island is covered in 20 tons of plastic waste. The plastics are from the Pacific Garbage Patch, estimated to be twice the size of the United States. The plastic waste, discarded from our daily lives and washed into the ocean, are now found in the stomach of many dead animals. One in three baby albatrosses living on Midway Island dies from plastic ingestion. 5 tons of plastic find their way into these baby birds ever year. 

While watching the film, all I could think of was how the plastics will still be there when the corpses of the dead baby birds are long gone, and how the future generations won’t look up to see a sky full of birds, but look down to see a land filled with waste. I hope we have more that just trash as our legacy to the future. 

There are simple things you can do to help reduce this problem:

- Recycle. Sounds simple but means so much. By recycling, you are not only preventing the plastic trash from being put into a landfill or dumped into the ocean, you are also reducing the need to create new plastic from petroleum and all of the damages that comes with mining for oil.

- Don’t litter. It’s really not hard to walk a few extra steps to make sure the trash goes into the can instead of just throwing it on the ground where it will be washed into the drains and rivers, which eventually lead to the ocean. Such simple action can save countless tons of plastic from ending up in the stomachs of baby birds. 

- Go for biodegradable products. It’s not a widely available option yet, but more and more products are made with biodegradable material. When given the option, choose the right one, and avoid products that have a lot of unnecessary packaging. Instead of buying 40 bottles of water, buy one long lasting water bottle and reuse it 100 times over. This way you’ll save time and money as well as the environment. 

Where do plastic bottle caps go? A lot of them end up in the ocean. 75% of ocean debris is made of plastic. And it doesn’t just float around. A lot of it ends up killing marine life, like this young albatross.

We talked with marine biology professor Richard Thompson yesterday, and he said:

It’s not about banning plastics. It’s about thinking about the ways that we deal with plastics at the end of their lifetime to make sure that we capture the resource.

On Midway Island, where this photo was taken, 1/3 of albatross chicks die from ingesting plastic. This image comes from photographer Chris Jordan, who says:

For me kneeling over their carcasses is like looking into a macabre mirror. These birds reflect back an appallingly emblematic result of the collective trance of our consumerism and runaway industrial growth.

Jordan directed a film about Midway Island and you can explore more of his pictures here.

4

The heartwarming moment when two waved albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) lovers recognise each other and reunite after much time apart.

This albatross is unique in being the largest bird in the Galapagos Islands, and the only albatross species found entirely within the tropics. Waved albatross mate for life; a relationship that starts with an elaborate courtship ritual. This routine is a precise sequence of moves, which includes rapidly circling and bowing their bills, clacking their beaks together and raising their bills skyward whilst letting out a “whoo-ooo” call.

Presumably monogamy evolved in situations where young have a much better chance of surviving if both parents cooperate in rearing them. Nonetheless, the amount of time and energy invested by monogamous male parents varies greatly. By the way, 90 percent of all bird species are monogamous.

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The Grey-headed Albatross (Thalassarche chrysostoma) is an endangered  albatross of the Southern Ocean, averaging 81 cm (32 in) in length and 2.2 m (7.2 ft) in wingspan, which breeds further south than any other mollymawk. Though its common name derives from the species’ ashy-grey head, throat and upper neck, the scientific name is a reference to the bright golden streaks on its bill.

Photographs: adult - JJ Harrison; chick - Ben Tullis

(via: Wikipedia)

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The world’s oldest wild bird just became a mother. 

Wisdom, a 63-year-old Laysan Albatross, is doing her part to reverse her species’ endangered status. She hatched what scientist’s believe could be her 35th baby. 

Thousands of albatrosses live on islands in the Midway Atoll, located 1,250 miles west-northwest of Honolulu. The average life span for a Laysan Albatross is 12-40 years

L. Katz

Preening ~ Grey-headed Albatrosses (Thalassarche chrysostoma)  in Tussock Grass, Diego Ramirez Islands, Southern Chile.

Preening is a bird’s way of grooming its feathers to keep them in the best condition. While preening, birds will remove dust, dirt and parasites from their feathers and align each feather in the optimum position relative to adjacent feathers and body shape. Most birds will preen several times a day to keep themselves healthy.

  • Photo Credit: Graham Robertson ~ Australian Antarctic Division
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COURTSHIP IN LAYSAN ALBATROSS

Albatross (in this case Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis) , are seabirds who rarely tread mainland. They breed annually, Juvenile birds return to the colony three years after fledging, but do not mate for the first time until seven or eight years old. During these four or five years they form pair bonds with a mate that they will keep for life. Courtship entails especially elaborate ‘dances’ that have up to 25 ritualized movements. 

Occasionally the birds form homosexual pairs consisting of two females. This has been observed in the colony  where the sex ratio of male to female is 2 to 3. Unpaired females pair up among themselves and successfully breed. Eggs are often fathered by paired males, who “cheat” on their spouses.