A video showing the quirky tango of an albatross duo located on a remote South Pacific island is the type of positivity and lockdown love we all need right now.
With bobbing heads and beak kisses topped off by a dramatic head-tilt, the video shared by the US Fish and Wildlife Service shows the “courtship dance” of the black-and-white Layson albatross in a nod to International Dance Day.
“Looking for new moves? Take notes on this gooney couple’s courtship dance!” writes the agency in a Facebook post.
Every fall, nearly 1 million Layson albatross return to their nesting grounds at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, which is made up of three small “virtually predator-free” islands that serve as a safe haven for the world’s largest albatross colony and more than a dozen other bird species native to the Hawaiian archipelago that nest on almost “every square foot” of the refuge. The refuge is home to three albatross species that breed in the North Pacific, including the monogamous Layson albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) which form life partners based, at least in part, by their spunky dance moves.
"[The] elaborate courtship 'dance,' performed only by first-time breeders and pre-breeders, includes many movements including bowing [the] head, mutual preening, swinging head from side to side, pointing bill straight up while calling,” according to the Audubon.
Known as Mōlīo in the Hawaiian language, these white-headed birds mate for life and make their nests of surrounding grasses, dirt, and shrubbery that is piled into large mounds that form a cup. Laying typically begins in mid-November when each couple lays just one egg that will be incubated over the course of the following two months. Wisdom is by and large the most famous Mōlīo and holds the record for the oldest known bird on Earth. In her 69 years, Wisdom has mothered upwards of 30 chicks. By comparison, a typical Layson lifespan is between 12 and 40 years.
At the turn of the 20th century, many colonies were decimated by feather hunters and extirpated from at least three islands, according to Hawaii’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Populations have since recovered and are estimated at around 600,000 breeding pairs in the wild that are today considered “near threatened” but stable by the IUCN Red List of Species. Notable threats to the species include plastic consumption when an individual mistakes floating trash for food, as well as rising sea levels that could someday inundate nesting grounds, according to the US Geological Service.