Tsunami hit sea birds’ nests at Midway Atoll

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2011:


MIDWAY–The farthest reported animal impact of the March 11,
2011 Thoku Chih earthquake came at Midway Atoll, more than 2,000
nautical miles from the epicenter. More than three million sea birds
inhabit Midway Atoll, including about 2,220 Laysan albatross–two
thirds of the world population.
While the most devastating tsunami following the earthquake
surged west, hitting Japan, a tsunami racing eastward completely
submerged one of the smaller Midway islands, and covered 60% and
20%, respectively, of the two largest islands.

Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuges
project leader Barry W. Stieglitz told Associated Press that at least
1,000 adult and adolescent Laysan albatross were killed, along with
thousands of chicks. The tsunami probably also drowned thousands of
ground-nesting bonin petrels, though most of the Midway petrel
population would have been away on feeding flights when the tsunami
The loss of Laysan albatross amounts to the entire year’s
reproduction. There was no word as to the fate of a 60-year-old
Laysan albatross who was banded at about age five in 1956. She was
seen with a chick in February 2011. North American Bird Banding
Program chief Bruce Peterjohn told media then that the 60-year-old
bird was the oldest wild bird ever documented in the 90 years that
the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and
Canadian Wildlife Service have collaborated to band and study birds.
In January 2011 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reported the
hatching of a short-tailed albatross at Midway. Short-tailed
albatrosses were previously known to nest only at Torashima Island,
off Japan, and at an island cluster called Senkaku in Japan, Diaoyu
in China, claimed by both nations.

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