Monday, March 19, 2007

The New Arrival

Last week, we posted some photos of the albatross couple that lives outside our back porch. We got a book about these birds to learn more about their life cycle. Each year, they come to land in November to mate. In December, they lay a single egg, which hatches in February. The chicks look like giant gray fluff balls. One parent sits on the new chick until it's too large to cover. Then, eventually the parents start to leave the chicks alone for periods of time. The chicks stay within 50 yards from where they're hatched. They grow bigger and bigger over the next several months, and eventually start testing out their wings. One day in July, they'll walk to the ocean bluff and jump off for the first time, a process called fledging. They'll remain at sea for 3 or 4 years, covering thousands of miles and traveling as far as Alaska. Then, when sexually mature, they return to where they were born to mate and start the cycle over again.

Each November, the adult albatrosses return to their home. We now realize why this one particular couple enjoys hanging out behind our patio so much. In the bushes in front of the apartment next to us, they have a chick! He is pretty big now and just hangs out all day long. He's old enough now where the parents will leave him alone for periods of time, going off by themselves or socializing with other adults on the golf course. As he gets older and ready to fledge, he'll lose his fluffy gray feathers and replace them with the white adult feathers. There is another couple that lives in the middle of the course, and their chick lives among some trees there. We can see him with binoculars.

The proud parents:

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