|“I NOW BELONG TO A HIGHER CULT OF MORTALS FOR I HAVE SEEN THE ALBATROSS”
- Robert Taylor Coleridge
I am extremely privileged and honored to have had the opportunity to observe the majestic Albatross that glides effortlessly on the up drafts of ocean winds, spending most of its life at sea, circumnavigating the entire globe frequently. They touch land only at an annual nesting site where they will reunite with their lifetime mate and begin the most elegant courtship behavior you could only imagine. Their 12 foot wings are stretched gracefully, the tail feathers are charmingly erect and their stylish heads are poised in the most seductive stance and together they begin to dance.
The Wandering Albatross is the biggest of the Albatross species and is classified as the largest flying bird that exists on earth with a 12 foot wing span and a body length of up to 1.35m. Although this sounds rather lanky, this elegant flying giant utilizes the strong up drafts from ocean wind and swell, gliding gracefully and effortlessly without a single flap. Because of its size the Wanderer needs at least 20 knots of wind to get itself airborne therefore they nest on steep, exposed coasts and islands amongst the tussock grass, using a small runway and a sheer drop as a launching pad.
- With most sea birds, only a single egg is laid and unique to the Albatross, the chick once hatched will begin an entire year of growing before it can take to the skies.
- During this time, the parents take turn making epic foraging flights covering thousands of kilometers.
- A Wandering Albatross tracked by satellite over 71 consecutive days from its breeding site in the South Indian Ocean, traveled a total of 33,000 km in a single foraging site.
- Once fledged the juvenile will spend its first 5-7 years at sea, not once touching land, and only to return to the very nesting site it was born when it is reaches sexual maturity.
- The chick logs copious amounts of ‘on the wing’ miles, and can live to a ripe old age of 60 breeding only every second year.
The main threat to Wandering Albatross is surface longline fishing for tuna. Tuna are caught on baited hooks which are on lines which sink slowly, providing ample time for slow moving birds like Wanderers to snatch at the baited hooks.