Friday, September 16, 2011

Gooneys In The Yard

I was thumbing through some old pictures and ran across some that made me stop and think. How many people have had albatross (or gooneys as they are most times called) nesting in their yards? Not many, I bet.

It was back in the '50s.. oh lordy, was it that long ago? Well, anyway, Elbert was stationed on Midway Island that sat right smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Midway Island

Our little family resided in base housing and in our yard lived several goonies. Midway Island is a bird sanctuary so the goonies stayed whether we did or not.

If you aren't up to 'speed' on the albatross species and never heard of them except in Coolridge's epic poem let me give you a few facts. They are some of the largest birds and can have a wingspan of up to 11 feet although I don't think any of 'our' goonies were that large!!
A Gooney in flight
(picture was from google)

 They reside on remote islands (Midway being one of the islands) while they nest and raise their youngsters, then they fly off and don't return for several years. And surprisingly they come right back to their old nest and you had better not have built an apartment building on top of their old home!! No, no, no. they'll just build as close as they can to the original spot.

The birds mate for life... they evidently are smarter than a bunch of us humans who keep running the divorce rate higher and higher. It is so entertaining to watch them court. They bounce their bodies up and down in a retualised dance, swinging their head from side to side and then they lift up a wing and stick their beaks under their armpits. I used to laugh and say that they were checking for body odor. Gotta be fresh for the little missus.

picture from google

The albatross in flight is a picture of grace and elegance but once they set down their feet to land you just fall over laughing they are so funny. Talk about awkward!! No grace or elegance on the ground. And, once they skid to a stop they waddle off worse than a duck waddles. Poor things.

Shirley, the 3 year old with a baby gooney

My children played in the yard and they knew to leave the birds alone. Mama bird or Papa bird was sitting on an egg (they only lay one) and those beaks are big and bite hard. How do you tell a 3 year old and a 2 year old to not bother the birds? The 2 year old got bit and had to make a trip down to the base hospital. A bit scary but he was fine.

An adult Albatross sitting on a nest near my children
the girl in back on left is just a playmate

I won't ever forget our time on Midway Island. We had a lot of interesting experiences. I hope you have enjoyed this little lesson on bird-watching, even if you weren't there.


  1. This was so interesting, I didn't know anything about gooney birds. I love that they mate for life and also return to their original nesting place. Smart birds!

    The pictures of the children in the yard are so precious!!!! Wonderful memories and pictures you have!!!!
    Hope you have a great weekend!

  2. Enjoyable lesson on the goonies. I did not know that much about them. Thank you. Your posts are very interesting.

    Have a good day, Latane.

  3. Boy, I have great memories of Midway! Those goonies were so funny. It was such an exotic, exciting place for a young child to live and I remember it fondly. Wish I could go back and see it again, though the base is closed and you have to get special permission to visit. Still...:-)


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