All About Al, Point Arena's Resident Albatross

Al a Laysan Albatross photographed at Point Arena January 1998
Al photographed at Point Arena in 1998
Photo Copyright: Ron LeValley

"Al" (or Alice?) is the Laysan Albatross that inhabits Point Arena Cove during the winter months. Typically Al arrives in the area late November or early December, stays for two to three months and then leaves in February or March. Al has done this regularly since the winter of 1994, when first recorded by Todd Easterla & Jim Booker.

Typically albatrosses come to land only to nest, and then in colonies on islands such as the Hawaiian chain for the Laysan Albatross, so Al's behavior is very unusual. The bird is probably not a breeder because it shows up at Point Arena at the beginning of the Laysan Albatross breeding season and leaves at the season end. As Ron LeValley, biologist and specialist in marine birds says: "Al is somehow mixed up."

Ron guesses the bird goes to the Gulf of Alaska for the summer where most Laysan Albatrosses go. However, to confirm this would require placing a data logger on Al's leg and then retreiving it a year later. Capturing Al to do this may not be acceptable to either the bird or to many of its followers.

The adult life expectancy of Laysan Albatrosses is unknown but is probably multiple decades. The Laysan Albatross wingspan is approximately 6.5 feet.

Visitors to Point Arena can expect to see Al about half the time. Check the cove every couple of hours throughout the day for the best chance of sighting the bird.

A tabulation of Al's arrivals and departures follows, thanks to the Mendobirds list on Yahoo (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MENDOBIRDS) and to Bob Keiffer for the summary.

Winter      First Seen Last Seen
1993 28 Feb, 1993
1994 30 Nov, 1994 27 Mar, 1995
1995 5   Dec, 1995 14 Mar, 1996
1996 3   Dec, 1996 26 Mar, 1997
1997 27 Nov, 1997 8   Mar, 1998
1998 12 Dec, 1998 21 Mar, 1999
1999 4   Dec, 1999 12 Feb, 2000
2000 26 Nov, 2000 26 Feb, 2001
2001 28 Nov, 2001 24 Mar, 2002
2002 21 Nov, 2002 12 Mar, 2003
2003 25 Nov, 2003 28 Feb, 2004
2004 28 Nov, 2004 21 Feb, 2005
2005 26 Nov, 2005 19 Mar 2006
2006 25 Nov, 2006 16 Mar, 2007
2007 7   Dec, 2007 5   Mar, 2008
2008 22 Nov, 2008 23 Mar, 2009
2009 18 Nov, 2009 23 Mar, 2010
2010 22 Nov, 2010 28 Mar, 2011
2011 5   Dec, 2011

The Mendocino Coast Audubon Society also thanks the local Point Arena businesses and the surfers who keep an eye on Al to insure the bird's safety


Black Oystercatcher. Photograph by Ron LeValley