ALBATROSS - Symbol of freedom, hope, strength, wanderlust, and navigation
The Albatross is a large species of sea-bird found throughout the southern Pacific and even into the colder Antarctic regions. There are 21 different species of Albatross found across the southern seas, but sadly 19 of the different Albatross species are said to be threatened with extinction today. The Albatross is closely related to other sea-birds including Petrels, which are all unique among Birds due to the tubular nostrils on either side of the top of their bill, meaning these Birds are often referred to as Tubenoses. The Albatross was first brought into the public spotlight with Coleridge's 1798 poem, the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
The wandering albatross has the longest wingspan of any living bird, typically ranging from 2.51 to 3.5 m (8 ft 3 in to 11 ft 6 in). The longest-winged examples verified have been about 3.7 m (12 ft 2 in). The length of the body is about 107 to 135 cm (3 ft 6 in to 4 ft 5 in) with females being slightly smaller than males. Adults can weigh from 5.9 to 12.7 kg (13 to 28 lb).
The Indian yellow-nosed albatross is among the smallest albatrosses. It weighs 2.55 kg (5.6 lb), is 76 cm (30 in) long and is 2 m (6.6 ft) across the wings.
The adult plumage of most of the albatrosses is usually some variation of dark upper-wing and back with white undersides, often compared to that of a gull. Three albatross species, the black-footed albatross and the two sooty albatrosses, vary completely from the usual patterns and are almost entirely dark brown.
Albatrosses have strong body, longish hooked bills, elongated legs and webbed feet.
They can walk well on land, unlike other sea birds.
All albatrosses are very good at flying, spending much of their life in the air.
Rather than flapping their wings to provide lift as most birds do, they glide on air currents. They use their formidable wingspans to ride the ocean winds and sometimes to glide for hours without rest or even a flap of their wings. When their wings are fully extended, they are locked into place by a tendon so that the albatross does not have to expend energy keeping its wings outstretched.
They were recorded as flying at speeds as high as 108 km/h (67 mph).
A common assumption is that albatrosses must be able to sleep in flight, although no direct evidence has ever been obtained.
At times the albatross will float on the sea’s surface, though the position makes them vulnerable to aquatic predators.
The albatross diet is predominantly squid, octopus, fish, krill, crabs, shrimps, and offal (organ meat), although they will also scavenge carrion and feed on other zooplankton.
Albatrosses have no problem drinking sea water. The salt they take in is absorbed and moves through their blood stream into a pair of salt glands above their eyes. The densely salty fluid is excreted from the nostrils and runs down grooves in the bill. As the drop gets larger, the bird shakes its head to send the salt back to the ocean.
Albatrosses are colonial, nesting for the most part on remote oceanic islands, often with several species nesting together. Pair bonds between males and females form over several years, with the use of “ritualised dances”, and will last for the life of the pair.
The single large white egg, laid on the bare ground or in a heaped-up nest, is incubated by the parents in turn. Incubation lasts around 70 to 80 days (longer for the larger albatrosses), the longest incubation period of any bird.
After hatching, the chick is taken care of and guarded for three weeks until it is large enough to take care of and fight for itself. During this time the parents feed the chick small meals. After the chick has grown a little older, it is fed in bigger meals by both parents. The parents both take turns to go and find food, that are about 12% of their body weigh. A parent albatross may fly more than 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) to deliver one meal to its chick.
Albatross pair and chick
Albatross chicks take a long time to fledge (learn how to fly). In the case of more bigger albatrosses, it can take up to 280 days.
Albatross does not have a lot of natural enemies. Besides humans, main predator is tiger shark which hunts young birds that are learning to fly.
Of the 22 species of albatross recognised by the IUCN, all are listed as at some level of concern; 3 species are Critically Endangered, 5 species are Endangered, 7 species are Near Threatened, and 7 species are Vulnerable.
Longline fisheries pose the greatest threat, as feeding birds are attracted to the bait, become hooked on the lines, and drown. It is estimated that this kills more than 100,000 albatrosses a year.
Albatrosses have been described as “the most legendary of all birds.”
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Question: Can baby albatrosses fly?
Answer: Baby albatrosses learn to fly when they are several months old. They head out to the ocean and don’t come back for five to 10 years, or until they are ready to mate.
Question: Are albatrosses endangered?
Answer: Of the 22 species of albatrosses living on the earth, 19 are in danger of becoming extinct. Pollution and loss of habitat are two reasons. Another reason is that albatross often eat plastic bottles, toothbrushes and other items thrown in the ocean.