There are 21 species of albatross and the Laysan is one of the smallest though still a large bird with a wingspan of over 6 feet. It has a long, strong bill which is hooked at the end and has sharp blades on the sides which are used to handle slippery prey. There are tubular nostrils on either side of their bill. Because of this they are sometimes called "tubenoses".


They spend the majority of their life at sea, gliding above the waves, traveling thousands of miles in a short amount of time, even sleeping while airborne. They have long, narrow wings which lock in place and use dynamic soaring which uses the up-drafts of wind above the waves for extra lift. This way they expend very little energy.


They have excellent eyesight and can see their prey from high up in the sky. They get food mostly from the surface, rarely diving into the water. Their keen sense of smell allows them to find both food and their breeding grounds in the dark.


They return to the land only during breeding season. They prefer nesting in the area where they were born, often returning to the exact same location. During the nesting season, they often perform elaborate courtship dances. They tend to mate with the same partner for life and have just one egg. The parents alternate tending the egg which incubates for about 60 days. The chick may then take several days to break free of the egg. This is called "pipping".