Ladies Make Do In A Pinch

Laysan albatross adults dance (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Out in the Pacific there are more female Laysan albatrosses than males.  The males will mate with the extra females but it takes two parents to raise the chick.  A single mom can’t raise her chick alone.  What’s a girl to do?

A long term study of Laysan albatrosses, published in 2008, shows that the extra females pair up in reciprocity agreements.

Albatrosses are such big birds that it takes most of a year for their solo chicks to mature and fledge.  Rearing the chick takes so long and is so labor intensive that female albatrosses lay one egg every other year.

Without a mate to help with nest duty the chick will die.  Researchers on Oahu, where the Laysan albatross population is 59% female, discovered that unrelated females on opposite fertility cycles pair up and raise each others’ chicks.  At the start, only one of them lays an egg and the pair incubates and raises the chick together.  When it’s egg-laying time again, the other female takes her turn.

Though their nesting success is lower than for male-female pairs, it works well enough that these girlfriends stay together for many years.

Ladies make do in a pinch.

Read more here at Science Daily.

p.s. Watch a Laysan albatross nestcam in Kauai, Hawaii on Cornell Lab’s website.  The chick is huge!

(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click the image to see the original)

5 thoughts on “Ladies Make Do In A Pinch

  1. They are really wonderful creatures, Kate. I have watched the nest for the first time this year! So cool. Last night, 3 adults were doing a cool dance at the nest site and the little one was watching….although…..he really is NOT so little anymore.

  2. This article words this a lot differently than the narrative agenda in the TV episode. Over and over again the narrator calls these Albatrosses Same-sex couples. Yes, they are help mates to each other, in the same way sisters or best friends are, or how neighbors would help each other while their husbands were at war, but the egg only gets fertilized by her mating with a male. At least the article here didn’t exaggerate like the narrator did in your TV episode! Not happy about that!

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