Albatross: Species Spotlight

October 2017 saw the very beautiful day that my wonderful older sister got married to her very best friend. Now I am sure that most people would say this but it really was the perfect day. The sun was shining and there were smiles all around. So, in celebration of this day of love I want to tell you about the Albatross – because they mate for life!

Kate & Luke – this one is dedicated to you <3

Albatross (Diomedeidae) are most widely known because of their size. Their wingspan can range from 6.5ft to a whopping 11ft! This huge wingspan allows the bird to live most of its life at sea where it can glide for hours without so much as a flap of its wings. This means that they save their energy and don’t have to rest as much on the water – which is a plus as they are at their most vulnerable to predators when sitting on the water.

The albatross is one of only a few sea bird species that is able to drink salt water. This is due to a special gland which enables them to process the salt water in a way which won’t effect their kidney function.

This was originally written for Small World, Big Cause in 2017, but bought to you fresh and fine, for The Curious Environmentalist. Enjoy 🙂

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Species Spotlight: Albatross

FUN FACT: The albatross is one of only a few sea bird species that is able to drink salt water. This is due to a special gland which enables them to process the salt water in a way which won’t effect their kidney function.

Albatross generally mate for life. They can live up to 50 years and meet up every year to raise a single chick, which they share equal responsibility for caring for. The chicks cannot fly for the first 3 months of their lives (some take up to 10 months to learn) so they are depending on their parents to protect and feed them during this time. They then live on the sea and don’t return to land for 5-10 years when they reach sexual maturity and come to land to find a mate and rear their chick.

There are up to 24 different sub-species of albatross but there is some debate. Until recently there was only thought to be 14 but new DNA technology has enabled scientists to discover new differences within these. All albatross are carnivores and mostly eat squid or small fish that swim in schools, they are also known to follow fishing ships to try and scavenge fish.

Historically, the albatross was hunted for food by indigenous hunters in the North Sea but more recently they are hunted for their feathers which were widely used to decorate women’s hats, and also through the introduction of non-native species, pollution and over-fishing. We’ve also all seen the horrendous footage of albatross losing the battle with plastic pollution. They mistake the plastic for prey, then when they are unable to digest it, they starve to death. Truly tragic for such a majestic species.

I have long been fascinated by the albatross and it is definitely on my bucket list to go and see them in the wild, but until I can get to see their love – I am going to focus on the love around me 🙂

Congratulations to happy couples all over the globe!

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