About The Albatrosses..
Albatrosses are among the largest flying birds present on earth. They belong to the seabirds family of Deomedeidae. Quite a tough family name to learn, right? Although this bird is definitely a treat to watch, their mesmerizing huge wingspans hold to potential to take the attention of all eyes present in the visible range.
These tube-like nose birds are beautiful creatures with very smart brains, and they catch fishes in a unique style. Many of us are aware of the fact that these birds actually dives in order to catch their meal but very less have seen them doing this in real, in fact only a few percentages of people on this planet are lucky enough to ever seen an albatross in front of them. Here we are leaving you a video to watch and learn how Albatrosses dodge death by taking such a suicidal looking dive and come out so gracefully. Watch it here.
Not always these giant seabirds catch their prey by diving, they often feed on squid, fish, and krill by scavenging or surface seizing too. Albatrosses are colonial by nature, they make their nests on the remote parts of oceanic islands, often with several other species residing together. These birds even like socializing within their groups and often seen roaming in groups.
But these are all the general information most of us know about Albatrosses, today from here we will take you to a learning trip regarding interesting facts about Albatrosses. Stay with us till the end of this article because Albatrosses are coming towards you.
Facts Those Were Known To Albatrosses Only…
# Do Albatrosses Fly For Years?
These seabirds are the masters of soaring flights, they are able to take flights above vast ocean tracts without even flapping their wings much. So from their ancestors, they have adapted to their oceanic existence & they spend the first six or more years flying through the oceans without touching the land for once even.
That doesn’t mean they fly all the time, actually, they fly above the ocean and float on water in order to have some rest & of course food. They have no other option but to dive and catch a fish or small squid for themselves. However, the fact remains the same, they touch land for the first time at least 5 years from the first flight. The project to find appropriate land for themselves to mate with the other sex and find a colony for the rest of their lives.
# Average Weight
Albatrosses are heavy seabirds, the adults usually weigh around 6kg (13 lbs) to 12.7kg (28 lbs), although most of them weigh anywhere between 6.35kg (14 lbs) and 11.91kg (26.3 lbs).
Macquarie Island depicts a different story as the average of three adult male Albatrosses is 8.4kg (19 lbs) and for three adult female ones are 6.2 kg (13 lbs) which is more on the heavier side.
Imagine this heavy bird is chasing you, and don’t consider this a joke. This has been recorded many a time that albatrosses do attack humans whenever they try to get top close with the birds. If you think they are too egoist to be friends, congratulations you fall in the safe zone, at least from the seabird’s view.
# Huge Wingspans
These birds are not just heavy on weight, they fall in the category of world’s biggest wingspan carrying birds range. The average length of Albatross’s wingspan falls between 2.51 m (8 ft 3 inch) to 3.5 m (11 ft 6 inch), with the mean length of 3.1m (10 ft 2 inch) in general.
These wingspans are powerful enough to allow them to cover long distances around the world. Not only this, but these strong wings also make them able to lift heavy weights too. You must have seen this in cartoons, the birds dropping babies to people, those are Albatrosses.
# Total Species Of Albatrosses
Current thinking divides the albatrosses into four genera. The total number of species of albatrosses is still debatable. The IUCN and BirdLife International recognize 22 extant species (listed below), ITIS recognize 21 (the 22 below excluding T. steady), and one recent paper proposed a reduction to 13, comprising the traditional 14 species minus D. amsterdamensis.
- Great albatrosses (Diomedea)
- Wandering albatross (D. exulans)
- Antipodean albatross (D. (exulans) antipodensis)
- Amsterdam albatross (D. (exulans) amsterdamensis)
- Tristan albatross (D. (exulans) dabbenena)
- Northern royal albatross (D. (epomorpha) sanfordi)
- Southern royal albatross (D. epomophora)
- North Pacific albatrosses (Phoebastria)
- Waved albatross (P. irrorata)
- Short-tailed albatross (P. albatrus)
- Black-footed albatross (P. nigripes)
- Laysan albatross (P. immutabilis)
- Mollymawks (Thalassarche)
- Black-browed albatross (T. melanophris )
- Campbell albatross (T. (melanophris) impavida)
- Shy albatross (T. cauta)
- White-capped albatross (T. (cauta) steadi)
- Chatham albatross (T. (cauta) eremita)
- Salvin’s albatross (T. (cauta) salvini)
- Grey-headed albatross (T. chrysostoma)
- Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross (T. chlororhynchos
- Indian yellow-nosed albatross (T. (chlororhynchos) carteri)
- Buller’s albatross (T. bulleri)
- Sooty albatrosses (Phoebetria)
- Sooty albatross (P. fusca)
- Light-mantled albatross (P. palpebrata)
# Engineers Are Trying To Decode Their Flying Secrets
Imagine the technique these albatross birds, their perfect aerodynamical body structure, which allows them to fly for miles without needing a single wing flap. This flying secret is definitely attracting the engineers to decode and employ it in their projects in order to provide them these miraculous flight capabilities too. Albatrosses are recorded to fly at a high speed 67 miles per hour.
In long trips, these huge birds spend half of their time facing the wind and using it to fly in the upward direction. Then they’ll shift and dip back down towards the ocean, catching another skyward draft moments later. They keep repeating the same technique again and again and hence cover the enormous distances with minimal efforts. Engineers once after decoding this flying secret, will employ it majorly in aircraft, this will help them to fly longer distances with lesser fuel requirements.
Albatross’s Olfactory Organs Are Class Apart- These giant seabirds don’t get much recognized for their impeccable smelling strengths. Maybe that’s because they do acquire so many other great things to showcase where this capability looks a little dusted.
Albatrosses can smell their prey from a distance of over 12 miles. Isn’t that too much for a bird? Well, that’s too much for anyone. They rely on their nose, which senses the scent and helps them track down their prey perfectly on spot like radars.
# Monogamous Mater For Life?
Well, it’s a myth that Albatrosses practice monogamy. This is certainly not true however, they pair for life. An average young albatross finds a need for their significance between the age of 6 to 10 years. They generally pair for life, which may last for more than 50 years, thanks to their huge lifespan. But if the other party dies, the living one will stop the breeding process, can’t be said.
In 2006, a study was conducted on 75 waved albatrosses from which, 10.7 percent were found to be sired by some other partner than their mother’s mate. Infidelity is surely rampant in these seabirds too.
In another study, it was found that a particular female albatross actually had sex with 49 different partners in just a mere tenure of 7 weeks. Males are equally into infidelity but still, they play the role of a good father and help their partners grow their chicks, even if the chicks are fathered by other birds. That’s commendable, right!
# Hetero Hanky Panky
Okay, this might sound a little weird to you but albatrosses too form same-sex relationships, Yes they do. They may enjoy hetero sex on the side and coupled with the same-sex partner, which may last for years.
“Not all pairs are straight, I wouldn’t assume that what you’re looking at are a male and a female,” this statement was given on record by biologist Linsay C. Young in an interview with the New York Times. There are studies in supporting this statement of the biologist.
In the year 2008 a survey was conducted on the albatrosses residing on Hawaii’s Oahu Island. 31 percent of the Laysan albatross couples are found to be female-female pair, this was because the population of male albatrosses there were outnumbered. So the female used the males for breeding purposes only and then live with their other female partners & enjoy raising their chicks together.
# Do Albatrosses Sleep?
They are one of the most hard-working creatures present on the earth. They often travel distances that are multiple times of earth’s total circumference. Most of their time, they are flying, and it was once just a theory that these birds do sleep in flight. That’s more like keeping themselves on auto-pilot mode and take a nap.
But later this mere theory was confirmed by a study conducted by Arctic Studies Center about some time ago. Findings also show that these seabirds often sleep on the surface of the water, which makes them easy prey for a predator like tiger sharks & hunter riding in kayaks.
# Single Egg Laying Capacity
These huge birds lay one egg in a single time. They mate and breed, and then the female albatross lays a single egg, which gets hatched after 2 to 3 months. The baby albatross is called a chick.
The main reason behind laying a single egg is the body structure of the albatrosses. These birds have a hard life and are forced to catch their meal by working hard underwater and to do this, their body must be in the assigned shape, which is just not possible if they carry more than one egg in their womb. Moreover, one egg is the maximum they lay in a whole year. There is not even a single female albatross recorded to lay more than one egg till now.
# Human-Like Average Age
Albatrosses birds live for a long period of time as compared to other flying birds. Their average life cycle is about 60 years, that’s exactly the average age of humans. The aging cycle varies with the species.
The oldest recorded Albatross is a female seabird belonging to the Laysan Albatross species and was named Wisdom, she was ringed in the year 1956 as an adult. She is still alive and her age must be 69 at the minimum.
# A Platonic Relationship With Sunfish
It has been observed that the albatrosses are often found cleaning the sunfish and taking care of them without hurting even a little. This symbiotic relationship between them isn’t entirely selfless.
Sunfish are world’s heaviest boned fish, common sunfishes aka Mola mola, are rib-less, tail-less, flat-sided oddballs. Big ones can weigh up to 5000 pounds and reach a total length of 11 feet. These critters are also very vulnerable to parasites, 40 different types of which may plague them. But they have this giant albatross by their side as an ally.
Laysan albatross can be seen easily, plucking the foreskin of sunfish, setting them free from the parasites threat and the seabirds get food against it. A win-win situation for both.
# Historic Connection With Humans
Albatrosses have been described as the most legendary of all birds. An albatross is a central emblem in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, representing the innocence and beauty of God’s creation. The albatross metaphor is derived from this poem; someone bearing a burden or facing an obstacle is said to have “an albatross around his neck”, the punishment given to the mariner who killed the albatross.
A widespread myth holds that sailors believe killing or harming an albatross is disastrous to any extent, due in part to the poem; in truth, sailors regularly killed and ate them, as reported by James Cook in 1772. However, other sailors reportedly caught the birds but let them free again, possibly believing that albatrosses were the souls of lost sailors, so killing them would bring bad luck.
The head of an albatross being caught with a hook is used as the honorary emblem of the Cape Horners, i.e. sailors who got rounded Cape Horn on freighters under sail; captains of such ships even received themselves the title “Albatrosses” in the Cape Horner’s organisation.
# The Royal Family Connection
These beautiful huge seabirds surely look royal but to compliment this, they actually have a royal connection too. The Albatrosses has a strong ally backing them, the Prince of Wales is their celebrity spokesperson.
During his Royal Navy Career, he watched these gliding creatures very closely and admired them a lot. Queen Elizabeth II’s oldest son, Charles, became fond of these seabirds and pledged to save them at any cost. “I remember sailing long distances across the oceans and one of the most marvelous treats of those long passages was to come out on the deck and see another albatross or two circlings around or following the wake of the ship,” he explained to the Albatross Task Force at a reception in 2009.
“There was something encouraging and heartening about the fact that you were being escorted by these extraordinary birds,” he added. Now, Prince Charles is an expert on avian-friendly fishing techniques.
# The Indian Albatross Is Special
This particular subspecies got a yellow nose on their face. And this seabird is recognized as the smallest of all albatrosses in the world. They usually weigh only up to 2.55kg (5.6 lbs) and grow up to 30 inches (76 cm). As per their small size, they have smaller compatible wingspans too, which only grows around 6.6 ft (2 meters) however, they still qualify for the category of giant birds in India.
# These Species Are Under Threat
There are a total of 22 species recorded till now by the scientist however, more of them can be searched and found anytime soon. Out of these 22 species, 19 of them are officially endangered. This is really saddening that our growth in demands has made these elegantly giant birds go vanish in many parts of the earth.
They are absent from the North Atlantic, however, their fossil remains, shows that they once occurred there and often vagrants are found. They have not extinct yet and people are getting aware nowadays, there are many measures taken in different countries to save the species and most of them seem to work nicely.
# Tiger Sharks Are The Top Predator
As now we know that the albatrosses spend many years flying above the oceans, they do take rest by fledging on the surface of ocean water. At this particular time, they are the easiest prey for the tiger sharks.
Tiger sharks have developed a taste for albatrosses particularly and they now look for them to eat. Once the nesting season end for the seabirds, tiger sharks tend to move towards the nearest hotspot area of albatross chicks. A survey conducted in some hotspot areas of these chicks suggests, that the predator shark fish is responsible for killing over 10% of the reared chicks every year.
# Global Warming May Cause A Population Spike
We know you read it twice, yes, this may the only good effect of global warming to the planer but, nothing much to get happy about. The spike if happens, will still be temporary in effect.
Air current in the oceanic regions are now faster because of global warming, this faster air current helps the albatross birds to fly faster in search of land and food. This saves time for the seabirds. A study suggests that there is an average weight gain of around 20% in today’s albatross birds as compared to the 1970’s ones. This has made them spend less time finding food and they breed more often.
This scenario might increase the population for them for a while but ultimately global warming will hurt them too. This rapidly getting higher speeds of air current will one day result in the inability of the albatross flying.
# Threats & Conservation
In spite of often being accorded legendary status, albatrosses have not escaped either indirect or direct pressure from humans. Early encounters with albatrosses by Polynesians resulted in hunting and in some cases excision from some islands (such as Easter Island). As Europeans began sailing the world, they, too, began hunting the albatross, fishing for them from boats to serve at the table or blasting them for fun sports. This sport reached its peak on emigration lines bound for Australia and only taken down when ships became too fast to fish from, and regulations refrained the discharge of weapons for safety reasons. In the 19th century, albatross colonies, particularly those in the North Pacific, were brutally harvested for the feather trade, leading to the near-extinction of the short-tailed albatross.
Of the 22 albatross species recognized by IUCN on their Red List, 19 are threatened, and the other two are near threatened. 3 species (recognized by the IUCN) are considered as critically endangered, they are, the Amsterdam Albatross, Tristan Albatross, and Waved Albatross. One of the major threats observed from a few decades is commercial longline fishing, as the albatrosses and other seabirds, which will readily feed on offal are attracted to the set bait, become hooked on the lines and get drowned. An estimate of over 100,000 albatross per year is killed in this fashion. Unregulated pirate fisheries exacerbate the problem.
On Midway Atoll, collisions between Laysan albatrosses and airplanes have resulted in human and bird deaths, as well as critical disruptions in military flight operations. Studies were made in the late 1950s and early 1960s that examined the results of control methods such as the killing of birds, the leveling and clearing of land to rule out updrafts, and the destruction of annual nesting site areas. Tall structures such as traffic control and radio towers killed more than 3000 birds in flight collisions during 1964–1965 alone, before the towers were taken down. Shut down of Naval Air Facility Midway in 1993 eliminated this problem of collisions with military aircraft. Recent reductions in human activity on the island & growth of awareness have helped reduce bird deaths, however, lead-based paint pollution near military buildings still continues to poison birds by ingestion. Albatross’s plume hats were pretty popular in the early 20th century. In 1909 alone, over 300,000 albatrosses were killed mercilessly on Midway Island and Laysan Island for their plumes.
Another threat to albatrosses is introduced small size species, such as rats or feral cats, which directly attack the albatrosses or majorly their chicks and eggs. Albatrosses have evolved to breed on islands where land mammals are likely to be absent and still have not developed defences against these notorious predators. Even species as small as mice can be proven life-threatening on Gough Island, the introduced house mice often attack and eat alive the chicks of Tristan Albatrosses. Introduced small species can have indirect effects like cattle eating and overgrazing essential cover on Amsterdam Island, threatening the Amsterdam albatross. While on other islands, introduced plants reduce potential nesting habitat.
# More About “Wisdom”
This female Laysan breed albatross is estimated to be hatched in year 1951 as per the scientific studies. She was tagged by the scientists in the year 1956 and was about 5 years then, a mature adult female. She was kept in Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge for studies but, later sent back to the wild rather than keeping in captivity. She is world’s oldest wild bird.
Wisdom was banded for studying her flight patterns, longevity, locations and daily life routine. This particular Albatross is expected to lay around 30-40 eggs in her whole life. Generally the other Albatrosses female lays eggs every other year but Wisdom has been observed to lay eggs each year after 2006 at being such age too. The last recorded time layed an egg was December 2018, which got hatched in February 2019. This beautiful old albatross has to change mating partners in order to lay eggs every year.
Wisdom has flown and covered more than 3 million miles from the year 1956 (the first time she was tagged) which makes approximately 120 times the circumference of the earth. In order to accommodate her increasing longevity, the scientists has replaced her tag for a total of six times till now. Not just the distance, wisdom has survived the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which literally killed over 2000 Laysan and black-footed albatrosses & much more than that of the eggs which were about to hatch. She is definitely a true warrior.
# Albatross In Golf
Sounds weird, right? Don’t worry, golfers don’t hit the ball with albatross’s neck. In golf, albatross refers to three underpasses at one hole. This scoring term is extremely difficult to achieve that most of the golfers failed to make it to this fortune shot. This shot is also called a “double eagle” on the fields.
So, that was it. These were some interesting facts about the Albatross exclusively chosen to expand your knowledge about the Albatrosses family in a slightly quirky manner. All the information and research done for this article are absolutely correct and highly reliable at every extent.
If you still feel that any of the facts are not correct or it has changed by the time, please write it in the comment section. If you think we have missed any interesting fact about the Albatrosses, do let us know in the comment section down below. The article will be updated timely for fresh facts & changes if required.