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Summary

As a nesting species, the Waved Albatross Diomedea irrorata is restricted to Hood Island in the Galapagos archipelago where 12,000 pairs bred in 1971. Outside the islands the species occurs over the northern parts of the Humboldt Current.

Two colonies were studied in detail (1970–1971). At the start of a season, males returned first to the colonies and defended a small territory. Copulation occurred without any elaborate ceremony and the female spent little time on land before laying. There was no fixed nest-site, even within a season, and birds moved their eggs considerable distances. This resulted in heavy egg losses. Younger birds bred later than older birds and laid longer but narrower eggs. The average incubation spell varied from four to five days at the extremes of the incubation period to 19 days in the middle. The average incubation and fledging periods were 60 and 167 days respectively. Pairs which lost an egg sometimes adopted the abandoned egg of another bird and successfully reared the chick. Most pairs nested in both seasons.

Nesting success was extremely variable, both between years and between colonies. Between 1961 and 1971 at Punta Suarez, virtually no young were reared in four seasons. Even in 1970–71, where nesting success was good, some groups of birds deserted their eggs en masse whereas in neighbouring areas up to 80% of the pairs reared young.

The main foods of the young were squid and fish.

Birds did not moult wing and tail feathers at the breeding colonies, and about 50% retained some primaries for more than one season, suggesting that successful pairs had difficulty in fitting in a complete moult between breeding attempts. Old feathers were normally found among the inner primaries and at the next moult were preferentially replaced, though adjacent newer feathers were sometimes retained for another season.

Some birds bred in their fourth years, but most not until a year or two older. Immatures were present at the colonies late in the breeding cycle, the youngest returning latest and remaining until the last young fledged.

Survival of adults and young averaged at least 95% and 93% per annum over many years. Adults and young ringed in 1961 survived equally well.

The significance of the timing of the return of immatures and of the large-scale desertion of eggs, apparently not due to food shortage or disturbance, is discussed.