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Wandering Albatross: Is This Animal Endangered?

Wandering Albatross: Is This Animal Endangered?

Wandering albatross populations have been declining because of human activities; we need to make sure we protect them so that Wandering Albatrosses can continue to wander. These seabirds are large seabirds native to the Southern Hemisphere.

  • Status: Vulnerable 
  • Known as: Wandering Albatross, White-winged albatross, snowy albatross.
  • Estimated numbers left in the wild: 20,000 adults.
  • Fun fact: Wandering albatrosses can eat to such excess at times that they are unable to fly and have to rest helplessly on the water.
Wandering Albatross

Wandering albatross populations have been declining because of human activities, and Wandering albatrosses need our help in order for them to continue their migration patterns. The wandering albatross is a vulnerable species that need protection from humans in order to survive.

Description

Vast and graceful, the wandering albatross spreads its wings towards the south like the biblical hawk, cruising the southern hemisphere’s skies on pinions that spread up to 3.5 meters, the largest wingspan found in any living bird.

Wandering albatrosses like albatross can migrate for thousands of miles, depending on which hemisphere Wandering Albatross is in.

Their chicks are very vulnerable until they grow their adult feathers, and Wandering Albatross adults are often captured by long-line fishing every year, which is harmful to the albatross populations.

They migrate for thousands of miles to spend winter months in Antarctica and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

This albatross species are very rare, with only 50 estimated left in the world.

The seabird faces many threats such as pollution, disturbance due to man-made sources like fishing boats and wind turbines, and predation by invasive species.

Anatomy and Appearance

These albatrosses measure 1.1 meters long and can weigh 10 kilograms. Their snowy white feathers and black and white wings give them a handsome appearance, especially contrasted with the ocean’s deep blue, while their beaks are long, sturdy, and yellowish, adapted for snapping up prey. They have the longest wingspan and shallow dives.

The albatross is superbly adapted for soaring flight despite its large size and can glide for hours before it needs to beat its wings to regain height.

When not breeding, these birds spend all their time at sea, far from even the island’s limited land. They sleep on the water’s surface and spend days gliding and flying in search of food.

See Related: Andean Flamingo

Location

The Wandering albatross is found over the oceans of the southern hemisphere. Airborne for much of their lives, these huge birds also rest on the sea’s surface.

They travel to a handful of remote islands outside the Antarctic Circle to breed, including Prince Edward Island, Crozet Island, South Georgia Island, and Macquarie Island.

Its living range covers 65 million square kilometers, and its breeding area is confined to just under 2,000 square kilometers.

Wandering Albatross Habitat

Wandering albatrosses live in the Southern Hemisphere and mainly Antarctica. This seabird flies very long distances to migrate every year, making them one of the most well-traveling birds in the world.

They tend to stay in their typical coastal habitat which is around the sea and land with enough food for them to survive.

Wandering Albatrosses are not just found in one area of the world, they are all over the southern half of the world.

The bird commonly breed on islands off South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and island territories of the United Kingdom near Antarctica.

Wandering Albatross Diet and Nutrition

Wandering Albatrosses are opportunistic feeders and will consume a variety of prey items. Their diet consists of cephalopods, fish, crustaceans, and marine mammals. They have also been known to eat seabirds, including penguins.

The birds are night feeders. Squid and fish schools are their favored feeding areas, though they also follow fishing boats to gobble up refuse – and thus possibly run afoul of long-line fishing lines.

They are prodigious wanderers and can travel up to 6,000 kilometers in twelve days. Patagonian toothfish is a favorite food, but any squid or fish that can be seized at the surface in the bird’s powerful beak will do.

These birds catch their prey with their bills and feet, but will also snatch at prey off the water’s surface. They can swallow small prey whole and regurgitate indigestible parts such as bones, scales, and fins.

Wandering Albatross Mating Habits

Wandering Albatrosses are known for their elaborate mating rituals. The males and females perform a dance together, and the male will offer the female a gift of food.

If the female accepts the gift, the two birds will mate. They are monogamous throughout their lives. The seabird is found in the Southern Hemisphere, but they migrate for thousands of miles to spend winter months in Antarctica and summer months in the Northern Hemisphere.

Many Wandering Albatrosses lay one egg, but breeding albatrosses have been reported to lay up to three eggs. These seabird species are monogamous and mate for life.

Wandering Albatrosses have a courtship ritual that involves circling the mate before copulation. The Wandering Albatross is a very long-lived bird with a lifespan of 60-70 years in the wild.

Albatrosses mate for life and nest in colonies on remote southern islands close to the Antarctic circle. They build large nests out of moss and other vegetation and lay a single elongated, 10-centimeter egg, which is cared for alternately by both parents.

The young albatross takes about nine months to fledge, during which time its parents feed it. If they do not run afoul of fishing lines or die from ingested plastic garbage, albatrosses can live for up to half a century in the wild.

Wandering Albatross and Human Relationship

Wandering Albatrosses are well known to have a strong, though not always successful, relationship with humans.

They often mistake boats and wind turbines as resting spots. This is because Wandering Albatrosses often imitate other albatrosses who are sitting on these structures.

The seabird is also threatened by invasive species that humans introduce o their habitats such as rats, pigs, cats, and dogs which prey on their chicks or kill adult Albatrosses by stealing their food caches.

Role in the Ecosystems

Wandering Albatrosses play a very important role in the ecosystem. They are considered “charismatic megafauna”, meaning they are large, easily identifiable animals that are popular with the public.

Their popularity draws attention to the conservation issues that they face and helps to raise awareness about the dangers they face.

They are important in the ecosystem because these birds are large seabirds that mainly feed on crustaceans. They can form massive breeding colonies on coasts and islands occurring at more than one hundred sites, where they nest or lay their eggs.

Wandering Albatross Facts

Here are the interesting facts you need to know about this species.

  • The Wandering Albatross is a large seabird and the only member of the genus Diomedea.
  • They can be found around almost all of the Southern Ocean.
  • They migrate for thousands of miles to spend winter months in Antarctica and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • The seabirds nest on many sub-Antarctic islands where they are threatened by many invasive species.
  • They are the largest seabird in the world.
  • They have a wingspan of up to 11 feet and can weigh up to 30 pounds.
  • The albatross eat fish and squid and they hunt at night while gliding over the ocean.

Conservation Status

The Wandering Albatross is currently listed as a vulnerable species This is because the bird’s population has declined by more than 50% in the past three generations. There are many threats that face albatrosses, and conservationists are working hard to protect these animals.

Their colonies are also jeopardized due to human encroachment on nesting areas without proper conservation efforts.

Threats

The wandering albatross is relatively well protected, both by its remote location and by-laws. However, its population is still slowly declining for slightly mysterious reasons.

The most likely culprits are long-line fishing fatalities, as the birds become hooked and drown, and plastics’ ingestion can kill both chicks and adults.

The birds were once hunted for feathers for women’s hats, but this practice is long gone thanks to changing fashion. Kerguelen Island is infested with feral cats, which have wiped out entire broods of chicks.

See Related: Causes of Extinction You Should Know About

Conservation efforts

The islands where the wandering albatross nests are thoroughly protected as nature reserves and, in one case, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Improved long-line fishing regulations have dramatically reduced the by-catch of these beautiful animals, and more measures are being developed.

Cats have been exterminated from another island they colonized, and further extirpation efforts are being carried out or are planned.

Albatrosses and Petrels Conservation

In 2001, the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels was formed to help better protect these creatures. The agreement is a collaborative effort between 24 different nations, including the United States of America.

The main goals of the agreement are to:

  • reduce bycatch and mortality of albatrosses and petrels;
  • identify and mitigate threats to albatrosses and petrels, including climate change; promote effective management of albatrosses and petrels; and
  • increase public awareness of the importance of albatrosses and petrels.

Captive Breeding

One way that researchers are trying to save seabird is by captive breeding. Captive breeding is when animals are bred in controlled settings, such as zoos or wildlife sanctuaries. This is done in an effort to increase the population size of a species and reduce the risk of extinction.

So far, captive breeding has been successful for these sea bird species. The albatross captive population or breeding population added to the total population that has increased to about 1100 individuals since captive breeding was started in 2004.

Organizations

Do you know of or are you a part of an organization that works to conserve the Amsterdam Albatross? Then please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.

See RelatedFascinating Facts About Conservation

Final Thoughts

Wandering Albatross Huge Wingspan

Wandering Albatrosses are large seabirds that migrate to spend the winter in Antarctica and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

They face many threats such as pollution, disturbance due to man-made sources like fishing boats and wind turbines, predation by invasive species such as rats, pigs, cats, and dogs. The bird is currently listed as a vulnerable species This is because its population has declined by more than 50% in 3 generations.

There are many conservation efforts being undertaken for this animal including improved long-line fishing regulations which have reduced the bycatch of these birds dramatically.

Also eradicating feral cats from one island they had colonized with plans for further extirpations underway. With so much work being done for this animal, Wandering Albatrosses will hopefully become less vulnerable.

FAQ

What is Wandering Albatross?

Wandering Albatross are large seabirds that have a wingspan of 6.6 ft and are larger than the wingspan of any bird– it is the largest living member of the family Diomedeidae.

Wanderers can be found in subtropical regions throughout Southern Hemisphere, nesting on isolated islands and coastal cliffs. Wanderers typically migrate for thousands of miles to spend winter months in Antarctica and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Where is the wandering albatross found?

Wandering albatrosses migrate for thousands of kilometers each year to spend the winter in Antarctica and summer in the southern oceans.

How many Wandering Albatrosses are left in the world?

It’s not easy to count Wandering Albatross populations. The species is present in five continents and its population is being evaluated everywhere it is found.

It’s 11,000 of this species according to Guinness World Records 2004 edition. World Wildlife Fund estimates that there are 12,000 today globally, but noted many surveys still need to be done before a reliable estimate can be obtained.

Why is Wandering Albatrosses threatened?

Wandering Albatrosses are threatened by the erosion of their nesting site, habitat destruction caused by people settling around the albatross’s breeding grounds and roosting sites, and predation of the seabird’s chicks.

Many dangers endanger the subterranean world, including pollution, human activity, and other man-made factors such as boats and wind turbines. Rat predation is one of the most common threats to these creatures.

Are wandering albatross still alive?

The wandering albatross is still alive! They migrate for vast distances. These albatross is a vulnerable species because they face many different environmental factors that threaten their survival.

How long can a wandering albatross fly nonstop?

Wandering Albatross is not able to fly nonstop due to its large size. They are able to glide for two hours without needing a break but cannot refuel in flight, and may require months of food and water when they land at breeding sites.

The sea bird often lands on ships and buildings in search of food and water because natural sources like seals, penguins, plankton, krill, or squid can no longer support them without threats from pollution or other man-made properties such as boats or wind turbines.

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