Voyage Interrupted: Caring for a Laysan Albatross Stowaway

A Laysan Albatross is recovering in the pelagic pool while arrangements are being made for its release back to the wild. Photo by Katrina Plummer

A surprising stowaway was found aboard a container ship en route to the Port of Long Beach – a Laysan Albatross. This majestic seabird, discovered on June 7 is currently preparing for its much-anticipated release back into the wild.

One of the crew members Nick Padouan, who rescued the wayward albatross, recalled that it had landed on the weather deck and eventually ended up on the mooring lines. Once he recognized that it could not fly away, he successfully captured the bird and brought it to Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center.

With 40 years of experience working on container ships, Nick is well-versed in such rescues. In fact, he remembers rescuing an albatross 30 years ago under similar circumstances.

Bird Rescue Los Angeles Wildlife Center Manager Kylie Clatterbuck and Veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr examine the Laysan Albatross’s wing while the bird is under anesthesia. Photo by Ariana Gastelum – International Bird Rescue

“It can be difficult to recognize when a bird is in distress or in need of assistance, but Nick’s vigilance and general interest in wildlife provided him with the awareness of how to help,” said Kylie Clatterbuck, Los Angeles Wildlife Center Manager. “Oftentimes these stowaways are emaciated, injured, or contaminated from being stuck on a ship for periods of time. They need assistance to help heal and gain back their strength before being released.”

Laysan Albatrosses have a history of being discovered as stowaways on ships navigating the ocean highways. They require a long runway for successful takeoff, allowing sufficient airflow beneath their wings to generate lift. Bird Rescue previously cared for an albatross in 2020.

The albatross patient is now recovering after having a dime-sized granuloma mass (typically produced in response to an infection) removed from its foot last week. Arrangements are currently being made for the patient’s release, which will take place by boat, several miles offshore.

With their impressive 6.5-foot wingspan, Laysan Albatrosses can glide long distances using prevailing winds, covering 300-400+ miles in a single day. They breed on small islands in the North Pacific Ocean, particularly Midway Atoll, located about 3,000 miles from California.

As birds navigate the effects of a changing world, Bird Rescue is committed to helping them overcome the obstacles they come across. Your donations are crucial in supporting these efforts. Click here to support the albatross and other waterbirds in care.