Midway Atoll, the site of the fierce and decisive battle in World War II, has been transformed into the peaceful Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Nine months of the year, the atoll’s three small islands – part of the very limited network of islands available for breeding seabirds in the Pacific – are packed with millions of seabirds, including Laysan and Black-footed albatrosses.
(Photo: Laysan Albatross)
Black-footed Albatrosses from the atoll are commonly spotted foraging off of California’s food-rich coast. Audubon California is working with marine ornithologists to identify marine Important Bird Areas for Black-footed Albatrosses and other seabirds in this region of the Pacific, in order to increase protection for these foraging hotspots.
While rich in bird life, habitat on the atoll is compromised by a number of residual and continuing human impacts including introduced plants. Verbinia is the most damaging of the introduced plants. Albatrosses try to avoid nesting in the dense stands, and chicks located in them fail to thrive. “They really can’t land or take off in that stuff,” says a longtime Midway worker.
Fortunately, in recent years volunteers have successfully removed large areas of Verbinia, and planted native vegetation, in collaboration with Refuge staff. These individuals significantly contribute to seabird conservation, and have the opportunity to witness the incredible spectacle of bird and marine life at the atoll. Without these volunteers, Verbinia would be far more widespread and there would be less albatrosses.
If you are interested in volunteering at the Refuge, Sierra Club Outings is offering a two-week trip this spring.