Midway Gooney Birds

Midway Island is a 2.4-square-mile atoll located in the North Pacific Ocean, about one-third of the way between Honolulu and Tokyo. It is best known as the location of the Battle of Midway fought in World War II on June 4–6, 1942. Nearby, the United States Navy defeated a Japanese attack against the Midway Islands, marking a turning point in the war in the Pacific Theatre. Today it is administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and is known as the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. We were flown to the island as guests of Midway Phoenix Corporation whose tours to the island have since shut down. This story is about the Laysan Albatross, also known as Gooney Birds. Midway Island is now home to 70% of the world’s Gooney population which is evident as soon as you step off the plane. It’s almost impossible to get any landscape shot without these birds somewhere in the frame, either on the ground or in the sky. The most endearing characteristic of these birds are their seemingly choreographed movements, almost dance-like, especially the “courtship” routine between two mates. I was fortunate to have been able to capture a few of these gyrations and learned not to get too close to these birds with a camera. During the interview with the bird specialist I thought it would be cool to have her seated on the ground with some Gooneys going through their dance in the background. It was sheer luck to have had this happen. Midway Island is an incredible place for experiencing wildlife of the North Hawaiian Islands in their natural habitat. The good news is that the FWS began to allow certain tours to be conducted within the refuge again in 2008. For more information visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website.

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