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Click and Clack, the Moli Sisters

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you. ~ Job 12:7

Throughout the 2000s, a long-term Laysan albatrosses pair nested in a small residential community on Kauai’s North Shore. For over a decade, researchers observed the couple courting, preening, and nuzzling. Throughout the 14-years that they were regularly monitored, they successfully raised four chicks to fledge. The partnership of these long-lived birds was cut short when one partner, identifiable by band #643, did not return from sea in 2019. The surviving partner has since paired with another moli (the species name in the Hawaiian language).

Professionalism demands objectivity in these sorts of scientific endeavors, but any time humans take an interest in conserving their other-than-human neighbors on this planet we find it hard to resist simple and natural affection. So it is not surprising that this pair was given names. It is even cute that they were named after the famous NPR Car Talk brothers, Click and Clack. What is surprising is that both Click and Clack are female moli, and after Clack’s demise, Click chose another female as her partner. On the strictly scientific level this is fascinating data. The research showed that this is not uncommon in this species, showing a clever evolutionary adaptation for a species that has a long incubation period for a single egg, effectively doubling the odds of survival by adding a second egg from the other female. On a human level, we get to see a natural example of a different way of being a couple. The behavior of these female moli is more than just strategic. They could court a male and then have a female nest-mate. But these birds court, preen, and nuzzle each other the same as any heterosexual pair of moli.

Those who read the ancient texts of our faith and believe they understand God’s one and only plan for human partnerships should probably do like Job and take their case before God. If they did they would likely get the same answer, “where were you when I was creating the universe and setting everything in order?” God instructed Job to ask the natural world for answers. So if we do just that we might learn a thing or two about loving relationships and good parenting from the moli.

Prayer: God of the sparrow, God of the whale, thank you for the rainbow blessing of diversity. Amen.

Read more about Click and Clack and the Layasan albatross recovery efforts here


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