To my surprise, I really like the birds out here. When I was considering coming out here to Midway, I was not so excited when I learned about the bird situation. I would say I wasn’t a fan of birds before, not that I didn’t like them, but I was indifferent. I’m certainly more of a fuzzy animal fan, like dogs. I was worried about the noise and the poop mostly.
It’s really something special here. These birds offer hours of entertainment, well to be specific, the Albatross. They are so silly and clumsy! If you’ve ever watched The Little Mermaid, Ariel had a bird friend named Scuttle and I think Disney captured the essence of these birds in that character (though I don’t think that bird was an Albatross). The other day I was sitting out on the deck eating dinner with one of the volunteers here and we watched this Albatross that somehow found its way up there try to get down. It walked over the the edge where there was a wooden railing and I thought it would try to jump or fly over but oh no… it walked in between the slats. I was sure it would get stuck and need a helping hand but it managed to squeeeeeze its way through, getting stuck just for a moment, leaving us giggling.
Watching them take off and land is hilarious. First they get a running start with their floppy webbed feet and then spread their wings to get lift off. If everything goes ok and no other birds or twigs are in their way, things go smoothly. Landing, on the other hand, is almost never smooth. Usually I see them face plant on landing, they usually get up and shake it off. I just love seeing them on the side of the road as I’m parking my bike or walking and they look up at me, kind of curious. Often times, I’ll squat down to their height and start up a conversation… “hey buddy!”
(I promise to get some good video of their silly take offs and not so smooth landings)
Right now they have made their babies and are taking turns (mom and pop) out to sea to get food and return back to feed the kiddos. They don’t start reproducing until 4 or 5 years old, so you can see some of the adolescents schmoozing and trying to find a mate. This involves an elaborate back and forth of clapping/clucking with their beaks, hooting and hollering, eskimo kissing and this back and forth of “yeah, yeah, yeah!” or “no, no, no” shaking of their heads. Here’s a video of the albatross doing some kind of Bird Square Dancing:
Once they do find their mates, it can be kinda sweet to watch them snuggle…