About The Albatross
Albatross population has suffered a dramatic decline during the last decade. As of 2009, 19 of the 22 species are officially recognized as either vulnerable, nearly threatened or critically endangered. While most species still have several thousand breeding couples, some, like the Amsterdam Island albatross, have dwindled to less than a few hundred. These birds are facing extinction if action is not taken immediately.
Some Facts About the Albatross
To many of us, familiarity with this unique bird starts with reading poetry. Two bards, Coleridge and Baudelaire, immortalized the albatross in their works, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and The Albatross, respectively. Both expressed qualities that we attribute to albatrosses till this day: independence, solitude, fortitude and omen.
Albatrosses possess a combination of physical traits rare among marine birds. They have wings designed for gliding winds, and they travel by riding ocean updrafts, sometimes for hours. Most species are colored in black and white, few having some gray, brown and yellow areas. Albatrosses have a large, sharp and powerful beak and highly developed sense of smell. Despite their webbed feet, they are relatively good ground walkers.
Usually solitary, they congregate in colonies – sometimes interspersed with other birds – in order to mate and reproduce. Albatrosses achieve sexual maturity at around 12, mate for life and are known to be monogamous (and long-living – many live up to 60 years). The courting ritual involves a protracted dance routine that consists of elaborate movements and sounds. A pair of birds produces one egg, on which both parents sit, and will care for the chick for months until it is able to fly. Albatrosses reproduce only once every two years.
Albatrosses can be found almost anywhere in the South Ocean (Antarctica, South America, Australia), and in parts of the northern Pacific. They eat fish, small crustaceans and squid. They are also known opportunists, and sometimes follow fishing boats, feeding on scraps. This opportunistic streak has also become their downfall: the birds get entangled or hooked by the longlines that fishermen use to catch fish.