Albatross - sea bird


The most legendary seabird, of course, can be called an albatross. In the family to which he belongs, there are only about twenty species. But in terms of the size and length of the wing, the wandering albatross stands out. He deserved fame thanks to the love of long journeys over the sea surface. The bird itself is very amazing, let's take a closer look at it.

Why are wandering albatross so called?

It is believed that the name of the bird came up with Spanish navigators in the fifteenth century. Then they called all big birds alcatraz. The British pronounced the word in their own way, and it sounded like an "albatross." The name is fixed everywhere.

Due to physiological features, the albatross wandering in flight spends most of its life. The origin of the name is connected with this fact. Very often you can see how the bird accompanies the ships. Indeed, an albatross behaves like a true wanderer, constantly wandering from one sea to another, and only occasionally lands on oceanic islands.

What does a wandering albatross look like?

Adult birds have completely white plumage, with the exception of small black splashes on the back of the wings. Juveniles are somewhat different in appearance. Nestlings have brown plumage, which only fade with time and becomes white. Echoes of the "young" color are usually found on the chest as a small strip.

Pooh albatross covers the body with a solid and dense layer. The plumage is light and warm, in physical properties close to the swan. As a rule, the paws are pale pink in color, and the eyes are dark brown. The bill is powerful, making for some birds an eerie albatross wandering.

The description of eyewitnesses is amazing. Some travelers say that an albatross is almost the size of a man. And indeed, the body in length reaches almost 120 centimeters. But more striking wingspan, which can be more than three meters!

Habitat albatross traveler

Albatross can rightly be called a big and strong bird. She quietly flies a thousand kilometers above the water surface. Therefore, the home can be considered not land, but oceans and seas. Halo habitat of this traveler - water adjacent to the icy Antarctica and the southern shores of Africa, Australia and America. Individuals can be found in the northern hemisphere of the planet, but extremely rarely.

Wandering albatross: food

As a rule, this bird prefers fish, crustaceans and cephalopods as mollusks. Albatross catches them on the surface of the water or dives behind them to a shallow depth. Most often, he does it in the dark. This majestic bird loves to profit during a storm, since a lot of food is thrown onto the shore with the waves.

A wandering albatross does not abhor scraps that are thrown from ships. Therefore, it is very often possible to see how this bird accompanies vessels sailing far from the coast, hoping to intercept something edible. There are individuals that settle in fishing areas (for example, on the Patagonian shelf or the Falkland Islands). There, albatrosses together with petrels turn into banal scavengers and feed on waste from the production of seafood.

Albatross is a bird of prey, therefore there have been quite bloodthirsty cases with a man. The dead people who tried to escape from the storm were found with mutilated faces and broken eyes. Experts confirmed that this was done by an albatross. One captain said that he had witnessed the attack of this bird on a sailor. Such cases have been, but are rather the exception.

Life in flight

As already mentioned, most of the life of this bird is in flight. Every day, it can cover a distance of two hundred to a thousand kilometers. This fact is explained by physiological features. First of all, it is worth noting the hollow bones and air bags, thanks to which the wandering albatross weighs very little. A wingspan of up to four meters is just perfect in aerodynamic terms.

Such physiological features allow the albatross to use air currents when flying. Muscular effort is practically not applied. The bird flaps its wings only during takeoff and landing, and the rest of the time soars. And so it can go on for hours. A wandering albatross lands only for breeding. Above fifteen meters above the water does not rise. At low air temperatures and in windless days flies even lower. The bird loves storms very much and moves against the wind perfectly.

Ornithologists believe that in ten days, five thousand kilometers can easily overcome wandering albatross. Lifestyle - constant flights, and this is the norm for traveling birds. One interesting case was described about ringed individuals. Albatross was released in the Tasman Sea, and six months later he was found at South Georgia. After about six months, the bird was already met off the coast of Australia. Ornithologists believe that wandering albatross in its entire life can make several round-the-world trips.

Features take-off and landing

It is believed that the wandering albatross never sits on the water. Of course, this is a myth. All the food of the bird (crustaceans, fish and mollusks) just once lives in water. Moreover, albatrosses even dive behind it to a shallow depth.

But on the deck this traveler tries not to land. This is explained by the fact that due to short legs and long wings, it is difficult for an albatross to rise into the air from a flat surface. The same is the case with the rise from the surface of the water in calm. An albatross wandering in such weather sits on the sea for a long time, rises heavily and reluctantly into the air. To do this, you have to work hard.

First, the bird picks up speed, pushing its feet off the surface. Then it flies low over the sea surface, sometimes flapping its wings. And it lands on the water again. So until finally rises into the air.

At the landing of the albatross look more interesting. The bird pulls webbed feet forward and opens its wings wide. Then gently touches the feet of the water surface, raising splashes. So, as if on skis, the albatross slides a few meters, after which it gradually folds its wings.

Bird Traveler Lifestyles

Albatross is a single bird, but it is collected in colonies only during nesting. The wanderer prefers monogamous relations, therefore forms a pair for the whole life. The relationship is broken if the partner dies or the chicks fail to breed. Only then the albatross is looking for another pair for procreation.

This traveler lives on average twenty years. Some are still chicks from predators. But It is worth noting that there is information about individuals living to the age of fifty.

Features of the marriage period

The life of this bird is long enough, but it does not have many descendants. Usually begins to nest no earlier than eight years, and the next chicks hatch only after a few years.

The mating season begins in December, then the colonies come together. A wandering albatross habitat for nesting chooses warmer. These are the sub-Antarctic islands, Macquarie, Kerguelen, Crozet and South Georgia. Nest equip the cliffs, rocky slopes and deserted shores, which are well blown by the wind.

Before mating, wandering albatrosses perform a special dance. During it, females and males spread their wings widely, rub their beaks, bow and go towards each other. The ritual lasts a long time and ends with a raising of the head to the sky with the emission of a loud cry.

Incubation period of wandering albatross

Equip the nest partners together. For this they use old facilities or make new ones from grass, moss and flowers. The nest is rather big (about a meter in width and thirty centimeters in depth). Albatross wandering lays only one egg, but quite large, half a pound of weight.

Hatching lasts eighty days. During this time, the partners follow each other every two weeks. But still mostly male takes care of the nest. In search of food, he can leave the female for a month and fly several thousand kilometers. During the hatching, birds can even lose about fifteen percent of their weight.

Caring for the Chicks

After the hatching of the chick, the female and the male are closely watching him for a week. For the first twenty days, the parents feed the young albatross daily. Later they do it less often, but they give more food. In the intervals between feedings, the chick is left alone, so it often becomes prey for predators.

So the young individual is in the nest for another eight months. Of course, under such conditions wandering albatross cannot nest often. Usually these birds acquire offspring once every two years. Therefore, at the same time you can see how some partners feed the chicks, while other couples just hatch eggs.

Once you see a wandering albatross, you will never forget it. The size and manner of flight is simply amazing and will remain in memory forever.

Description, the appearance of the albatross

This majestic seabird is a member of the petrel squad. The International Union for Conservation of Nature divides the vast albatross family into 4 genera with 22 species, but the debate about the number is still underway.

Some species, for example, royal and wandering albatrosses surpass the wingspan (over 3.4 m) of all living birds.

The plumage of adults is built on the contrast of the dark top / outer part of the wings and the white chest: some species may be almost brown, others - white as males of the royal albatross. In young animals, the final coloring of feathers appears after a few years.

The powerful beak of the albatross ends with a hooked fore-mandible. Thanks to the long nostrils, stretched along, the bird feels keenly smells (which is not typical for birds), which "lead" it to the stern.

On each paw there is no hind finger, but there are three front, united by membranes. Strong legs allow all albatross to walk on the surface of the land without effort.

In their search for food, albatrosses are able to cover considerable distances with a small expenditure of power, using oblique or dynamic soaring. Their wings are arranged so that the bird can hang in the air for a long time, but does not overpower a long flight flight. An active wing flap does the albatross only during takeoff, relying further on the strength and direction of the wind.

When calm, the birds sway on the water surface until the first gust of wind helps them. On the sea waves, they not only rest on the way, but also sleep.

It is interesting! The word "albatross" is derived from the Arabic al-ġaţţās ("diver"), which in Portuguese dialect began to sound like alcatraz, then migrated to English and Russian. Under the influence of the Latin albus ("white"), alcatraz turned into albatross a little later. Alcatraz - the so-called island in California, which contained particularly dangerous criminals.

Habitat in the wild

Most of the albatross live in the southern hemisphere, settling from Australia to Antarctica, as well as in South America and South Africa.

The exceptions include four species belonging to the genus Phoebastria. Three of them inhabit the northern part of the Pacific Ocean, from the Hawaiian Islands to Japan, California and Alaska. The fourth species, the Galapagos albatross, feeds from the Pacific coast of South America and is seen on the Galapagos Islands.

The area of ​​albatross distribution is directly related to their inability to active flights, which is why the intersection of the equatorial calm sector becomes almost impossible. And only the Galapagos albatross has learned to subjugate the air currents generated by the cold oceanic flow of Humboldt.

Ornithologists, using satellites to track the movements of albatrosses over the ocean, found that birds do not participate in seasonal migrations. Albatross fly to different natural areas after the breeding season is over..

Each species chooses its own territory and route: for example, southern albatrosses usually go on circumpolar world travel.

Extraction, diet

The species of albatross (and even intraspecific populations) differ not only in their habitat, but also in gastronomic preferences, although their food base is approximately the same. The only difference is the proportion of a particular food source, which can be:

  • a fish,
  • cephalopods,
  • crustaceans,
  • zooplankton,
  • carrion.

Some prefer to feast on squid, others catch krill or fish. For example, one of the two “Hawaiian” species, the dark-spined albatross, focuses on squid, and the second, black-legged albatross, on fish.

Ornithologists have found that certain species of albatross willingly eat carrion. Thus, the wandering albatross specializes in squid dying during spawning, thrown out as fishing waste, and also rejected by other animals.

The value of the fall in the menu of other species (such as gray-headed or black-browed albatrosses) is not so great: smaller squids become their prey, with death usually going quickly to the bottom.

It is interesting! Not so long ago, the hypothesis that albatrosses pick up food on the surface of the sea was dispelled. They were supplied with echo sounders, measuring the depth to which the birds sank. Biologists have found that several species (including wandering albatross) dive by about 1 m, while others (including smoky albatross) can drop to 5 m, increasing the depth to 12.5 if necessary.

It is known that albatross earn food during the day, diving for the victim, not only from the water but also from the air.

Lifestyle, enemies of albatross

Paradox - all albatross, almost without natural enemies, in our century were on the verge of extinction and taken under the protection of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The main reasons that brought the birds to this fateful line were:

  • their mass destruction for the sake of feathers for ladies' hats,
  • introduced animals whose prey are eggs, chicks and adult birds,
  • environmental pollution,
  • death of albatrosses during longline fishing,
  • depletion of ocean fish stocks.

The tradition to hunt for albatrosses originated from the ancient Polynesians and Indians: thanks to them, entire populations disappeared, as was Fr. Easter. Later European seafarers, who caught birds for table decoration or sports interest, made their contribution.

The peak of the killings fell on the period of active settlement of Australia, ceasing with the advent of firearms laws. In the century before last, the white-backed albatross had almost completely disappeared, which feather hunters shot mercilessly.

Important! Nowadays, the albatross continue to die for other reasons, including, swallowing the hooks of fishing gear. Ornithologists have calculated that this is at least 100 thousand birds per year.

The next threat comes from the introduced animals (mice, rats and feral cats), ravaging the nests and attacking adult individuals. The albatrosses have no defense skills, as they nestled away from wild predators. Cattle delivered on about. Amsterdam, became the indirect cause of the decrease of albatrosses, as it ate grass, where birds hid nests.

Another risk factor is plastic debris that settles in the stomachs undigested or overlaps the digestive tract so that the bird does not feel hunger. If the plastic gets to the chick, it stops growing normally, since it does not require parents to feed, experiencing a false sense of satiety.

Now many environmental protection agencies are developing measures to reduce the volume of plastic waste that falls into the ocean.


Albatrosses can be attributed to long-livers among birds. Ornithologists estimate their average life expectancy at about half a century. Scientists are based on observations of a single specimen of the species Diomedea sanfordi (royal albatross). He was ringed when he was already in adulthood, and he was followed by another 51 years.

It is interesting! Biologists have suggested that ringed albatross has lived in its natural environment for at least 61 years.

Albatross breeding

All species demonstrate philopatricity (loyalty to the place of birth), returning from wintering not just to their native places, but almost to their parents' nests. For breeding, choose islands with rocky capes, where there are no predatory animals, but there is free access to the sea.

In albatross there is late fertility (at 5 years), and they begin to mate even later: some species are not earlier than 10 years. Альбатрос со всей серьезностью подходит к выбору спутника жизни, которого меняет только при отсутствии у пары потомства.

Несколько лет (!) самец приглядывает себе невесту, наведываясь в колонию из года в год и ухаживая за несколькими самками. С каждым годом он сужает круг потенциальных партнерш, пока не останавливается на единственной.

There is only one egg in the albatross; if it is accidentally destroyed, the female lays the second one. Nests are constructed from surrounding plants or land / peat.

It is interesting! Phoebastria irrorata (Galapagos albatross) does not bother to erect a nesting site, preferring to roll a laid egg along a colony. Often he drives it away to a distance of 50 meters and can not always ensure safety.

Parents sit on the clutch in turn, not rising from the nest from 1 to 21 days. After the birth of the chicks, parents warm them for another three weeks, feeding them with fish, squid, krill and light oil, which is produced in the bird's stomach.

The first flight of small albatrosses make in 140-170 days, and representatives of the genus Diomedea even later - after 280 days. Having risen on the wing, the chick no longer counts on parental support and can leave its nest.