The wandering albatross is a large bird found in the Southern Ocean. It is also known as snowy albatross, white-winged albatross, and goonie.
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Wandering Albatross Scientific Classification
Table Of Content
Table of Contents
Size: They measure at around 3 ft 6 in to 4 ft 5 in (1.07-1.35 m).
Weight: Adult wandering albatrosses typically weigh between 13 and 28 lbs (5.9-12.7 kg).
Color: The plumage for juveniles is chocolate brown which becomes whiter with age. The wings in adults are white with black around the tips while the female’s wings have more black on them. The bill and feet are pink.
Sexual Dimorphism: Males are a little bit larger than females.
Wingspan: They have the largest wingspan among birds, measuring at around 8 ft 3 in to 11 ft 6 in (2.51-3.5 m).
The two recognized subspecies of the wandering albatross are D. e. exulans (nominate subspecies) and the D. e. gibsoni (also known as Gibson’s albatross).
The breeding range for the wandering albatross includes South Georgia Island, Crozet Islands, Prince Edward Islands, Kerguelen Islands, and Macquarie Islands. It also feeds around the Kaikoura Peninsula on New Zealand’s South Island east coast.
They inhabit subantarctic islands with tussock grass, sedges, shrubs, mosses and peat soils. They nest on ridges, plateaus, valleys, and plains.
- These birds spend most of their lives in the air, traveling long distances.
- They live in small groups during their forages in the sea.
- They become rather social during the breeding season.
- They are territorial towards members of the same sex during the breeding season and defend their nesting area with vocalizations.
Wandering albatrosses eat fish, squids, and crustaceans.
Mating & Reproduction
These birds mate for life and mate every other year. Males reach the breeding grounds before females and locate the same nesting sites they had used the previous season, although they may also choose to build new ones. Females arrive after males. The breeding season usually occurs between December and March. The female lays one egg per breeding season which is then incubated for 74-85 days. Both parents take part in incubation.
The hatchling stays in its parents’ care for up to 9 months of age, after which they achieve independence. They reach sexual maturity by the time they are 9 years old.
Wandering albatrosses can live for up to 50 years.
Sounds & Communication
These birds communicate by croaking, bill-clapping, bill-touching, trumpeting, and pointing towards the sky with their bills.
- The large wings of the wandering albatross help them fly for vast distances over several hours without flapping. For every meter of drop in altitude, they can travel 22 meters in distance.
- The salt gland at the nasal passage helps them desalinate their bodies of the excess salt they come in contact with because of their oceanic lifestyle.
- They can dive up to a meter into the ocean to catch their prey. They, however, prefer to catch the fish from the surface of the ocean.
Adult wandering albatrosses have no predators. Eggs, hatchlings, and juveniles, on the other hand, are preyed upon by sheathbills and skuas. In addition to these two, several introduced animals like goats, pigs, rats, mice, and cats also eat the chicks and eggs.
IUCN Conservation Status
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the wandering albatross under their ‘Vulnerable’ category.
- The wandering albatross is the biggest bird in its genera and one the largest in the world.
- One individual lived to be 60 years old in New Zealand. She was named ‘Grandma.’
- Another banded individual was recorded to have traveled 3,730 miles in just 12 days.