Our planets oceans cover approximately 70% of earth’s surface and harbors millions of aquatic creatures within its murky depths. With our planet being mostly water it comes to no surprise that many species have adapted to using the ocean as their main food source. Seabirds are one of those species who have recognized the advantages of living off what the ocean has to offer. When one thinks of seabirds you would probably imagine a seagull trying to steal your lunch while you lay out on the beach; however much like any other group of animals there are many different species’ that belong to the seabird family. Seabirds of course come in all shapes and sizes however the most impressive is none other than the Albatross. This bird is famous for its massive size.
The Albatross bird belonging to the “Diomedeidae” family have dozens of species that are a part of it. Although all Albatrosses have large wingspans there is one that exceeds all others. The Wandering Albatross has the greatest wingspan of any other bird, which can be more than 11 ½ feet long! A juvenile albatross will vary from light to dark brown in color and as these birds age there once darker shade of brown will fade to white. A helpful tip when it comes to determining if you have caught a glimpse of this magnificent bird is the peach color you will be able to see on the side of their head. A female will weigh up to 13 pounds and males can potentially be double that size. They have a tail that is a wedge like shape and pink webbed feet that are accompanied by a long pink beak to match. The long beaks of albatross birds are about 4 inches in length with a hook on the end. These beaks also are equipped with long tubes on the side that separate from their nostrils. These tubes give the albatross a superb sense of smell that is deadly for their prey. Having the keen sense of smell the albatross possess is extremely important since the travel long distances to find food.
For such a gigantic bird the diversity is small when it comes to their diet. Even though these birds can consume a lot of food the variety isn’t as vast as you would think. They are known to mainly indulge in cephalopods, jellyfish, crustaceans, fish, and if their options are looking scarce they will feed on carrion (flesh of dead animals) and zooplanktons. They catch their prey by scooping up food that comes to the surface or diving. They can dive below 5 meters (16.4 feet) deep. Albatrosses are scavengers and will also hang around fishermen’s boats to feast off their garbage.
Albatross birds spend most of their lives out at sea. Their huge wingspan allows them to glide for hours without moving a muscle. Instead of flapping their wings they have different flying techniques so they can minimize the use of their muscles and energy which helps when it comes to long journeys. Although most of their life is spent in the air you can find them throughout the southern pacific. They only return to dry land when it is breeding season and settle down to nest in the Antarctic tundra.
The Albatross bird is unlike any other. Unfortunately, 19 of the 21-albatross species are on the endangered list. The two remaining populations of the albatross species are not as low but are declining. The threat to these birds is ongoing and longline fishing is the main culprit. When these lines are cast out by fishermen it’s not uncommon for them to catch and kill marine life that was not intended. Albatrosses live to be over 60 years old and with their long breeding rate its means they are slower to recover. If we don’t make a change when it comes to this type of fishing we are looking at possible extinction of our largest bird of the sea.