In the middle of the last century, things weren’t looking good for the majestic Short-tailed Albatross. From a hardy population estimated to be in the millions just decades earlier, the bird’s numbers underwent a dramatic decline from over-hunting — nearly disappearing from the face of the Earth entirely by the late 1940s. But, while many conservationists believed them to have been made extinct, the few remaining Albatross were plotting their eventual comeback — and now, for the first time, they’ve been spotted nesting on U.S. soil.
According to a report from USA Today, just ten surviving Albatross were found to be nesting just on two small islands in Japan one decade after many had believed them to have gone extinct. Since that time, those few birds have multiplied into the thousands — but only on those particular nesting grounds, and that had conservationists worried. Just one eruption from an active volcano nearby could spell the end for the species, and this time for good.
In other words, it appeared that the Short-tailed Albatross had all of its eggs in one basket — but things are now looking up. For the first time ever, the birds have been found nesting on two tiny islands in the U.S., in the northwestern Hawaiian island chain. One nest with a couple of eggs inside was found on the Kule atoll, accompanied by two female birds; the other, on Midway atoll, contained fresh eggs and was guarded by both a male and female albatross.
Rob Suryan of the Short-tailed Albatross Recovery Team, expressed his satisfaction with the discovery in a press release:
It is very encouraging to see this species begin to expand and occupy its former range and even prospect potentially new breeding locations like Kure and Midway Atolls.
While the fate of the Short-tailed Albatross remains uncertain, conservationist groups remain vigilant that their efforts to protect to bird are truly paying off. And, with the bird’s tenacity to survive, even though they once faced almost certain extinction, perhaps one day the gentle chirping of Albatross chicks will be heard yet again throughout the Pacific.