The Majestic Moli

Established on the lush, and volcanic western slopes of the Big Island, Coffee Times owner, Les Drent, roasted, and sold his first pound of Kona coffee in 1993. Five years later, Les moved his Coffee Times roasting operation to the beautiful island of Kauai, and established the Blair Estate shade grown, organic coffee farm in 2001. While his passion for farming is now deeply rooted in the Kauai soil, he continues to be a strong proponent for the preservation of 100% Kona coffee.

The Majestic Moli
By: Lois Ann Ell

March 12, 2012

For years I have heard my friend Hob’s stories about her experiences with the Laysan Albatross seabird, known as moli in Hawaiian. Not only is Hob a volunteer and advocate for the species on Kaua’i, she has a connection with these birds that is rare and beautiful. When she invited me to a presentation she was giving on the Albatross at the Princeville Library, I decided to go. It was a perfect opportunity to learn more about these graceful winged creatures I see looming over me far above occasionally.

Laysan Albatross Nesting

Laysan Albatross Nesting

One of the reasons for the presentation (that is open to the public, held a few times a year) is to reveal the sheer wonder of the species, which mate for life, and can soar across the Pacific Ocean for hours, even days, without even one flap of their wings. The other reason though, is to inform visitors and residents alike about the threats to the Albatross during their nesting season from November through July on the North and Northeastern bluffs of Kaua’i.

Hob explained the Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) choose Kaua’i as their nesting grounds (as well as one spot on O’ahu and various other far-flung Pacific islands) in large part because there are no mongooses on the Garden Isle. But there are other threats: dogs, pigs, cats, (feral and domestic) and barn owls. But luckily many of these seabirds are protected on oases such as the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens and privately-owned secluded properties.

These birds are regal looking. They have a sleek white body and head, and their wings look as if they have been dipped in black ink, and the black around their eyes look like they are all on stage playing Cleopatra. Around 36 inches tall, their wingspan ranges from six to eleven feet. This allows them to glide over the water for days, swooping down to grab fish to eat. Their life span is long, with one Albatross in New Zealand pushing sixty years old.

Laysan Albatross chick.

Laysan Albatross chick.

For six months of the year they are out at sea, and then the other six months they spend nesting at their chosen spot. The Moli are monogamous, and once they find their mate (after long, involved courting rituals) they build a nest and the female lays one single egg. And then for two months both partners take turns holding down the fort and keeping the egg warm, while the other goes off. When the adorable chicks are born, they are fed regurgitated little balls of squid oil and fish eggs. Hob explained that the squid oil fattens the fledglings up in no time, and soon they are toddling around. It’s at this young age the birds are most vulnerable to predators.

Another sad plight that comes to the chicks and their parents is when in their hunt for food the Albatross eat bits of plastic in the ocean, such as bottle caps and lighters. The plastic sits in the bird’s bellies which cause them to feel full but results in starvation and sometimes death. Keeping plastic out of the ocean is important for all of our survival, especially for the Moli. If the Albatross chicks make it through the important first few months of their life, they then have to take a giant leap off a huge cliff, and fly, having never flown before, save for a few fits and starts on land—just another interesting fact about these seabirds that make their home on Kaua’i each year.

For more information, check out the Kaua’i Albatross Network which Hob founded, at http://www.albatrosskauai.org

Photo credits: Kim Steutermann Rogers

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