Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans)


The Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) and its other Albatross counterparts are facing extinction. Scientists have recorded that close to a 100,000 birds a year are being killed by tuna and swordfish fishing vessels. If serious action is not taken urgently, this mighty seafarer might not be seen in the near future. The Wandering Albatross is one of the largest albatrosses, with a length of 1.35 meters and a spectacular wingspan of 3.5 meters. They are oceanic birds, and are known to remain at sea for years at a time, only returning to land for breeding. Wandering Albatrosses are a familiar sight in the Antarctic, Southern Oceans, in the subtropical waters and in the sub-Antarctic waters, and are the globetrotters of the sea bird species. A bird that was tagged by scientists was recorded to have covered a distance of 6,000 kilometers, in a mere twelve days.

They are predominantly white over their heads, necks, throats, breasts, bellies, and under their wings. The upper parts of their wings are black at the tips, and turning lighter and receding as they age. Younger birds that are still undergoing the stages to adult plumage are often confused with similar looking albatrosses. Their bills are generally a yellow to pink color, but it can vary. The albatross will glide over the surface of the water to feed, and collects fish, squid and other aquatic foods from the water. These magnificent birds are known to follow fishing trawlers to collect scraps that are thrown overboard, and  this is often the reason why they get caught up in the nets.

Breeding season is in November for the Wandering Albatrosses, and only takes place every second year. They mate for life, and will migrate to sub-Antarctic islands to nest. Nests are constructed on ridges close to the ocean, and are built from mud, sticks and other pieces of vegetation. The female will only lay one egg and the incubation period is approximately eight weeks. After hatching, the chicks will remain in the nest for a period of nine months, while it develops. While the chicks are still very young, parents will alternate to search for food, to ensure that one parent is at the nest at all times. As the chick ages, both parents will start hunting for food, returning to feed their chick. The chick is only fully developed after twelve months and weighs approximately a staggering twelve kilograms when it fledges the nest. In ideal conditions Wandering Albatrosses can live to the ripe old age of about 80.