Thousands of Nesting Albatross Swept Away By Tsunami


Photo credit: angrysunbird/Creative Commons

Though most of the devastation caused by the Sendai Tsunami occurred on the northern Pacific coast of Japan, the shock of the earthquake sent ripples out deep into the ocean. 2,560 miles away, on Midway Atoll, four-foot-high waves washed over an important breeding ground for several species of albatross—including the endangered short-tailed albatross.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, tens of thousands of birds—both adults and chicks—were washed out to sea and have not yet returned to their nests.SLIDESHOW: An Ocean of Plastic...In Birds' Guts

Chicks were the most heavily impacted, with tens of thousands young laysan albatross lost and thousands more Bonin petrels buried alive. Several thousand adults of several species were lost and have not yet returned.

Only a single pair of short-tailed albatross nest at Midway. The species, which is thought to have a population of only 2,200 individuals, has suffered from decades of feather hunting and a string of natural disasters that have degraded their few nesting sites. The Forest Service reports that though chick and both parents were hit by the wave, the chick was found 35 meters away and returned to its nest. Without at least one parent, however, the chick cannot survive.

Overall, however, the populations are expected to survive, though it may take 10 years for a complete rebound to take place.

Laysan ducks and monk seals were also affected, but the scope of the impact is not yet known.

Read more about the disaster in Japan:
Mini-FAQ About Japan's Nuclear Power Plant Crisis
Nuclear Reactions To Japan's Crisis From Around The World
Nuclear Threat Worsens as Japan Response to Earthquake and Tsunami Damage Continues

Tags: Animals | Birds | Conservation | Endangered Species | Midway

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