Learn All About the Albatross

These creatures are known for their breathtaking wingspan and are some of the most interesting of seabirds. The albatross is a white and grey colored seabird that reigns over both sea and sky. Here’s what you should know about them and what makes them unique.

Albatross

Seeing an albatross is a real treat, but you don’t have to see it to learn about the animal. Masters of sea and sky they possess a sharp sense of sight and smell that gives them a huge advantage over their prey.

What you should know

The first thing you should know about an albatross is that they have the largest wingspan of any seabird whatsoever. With a wingspan of nearly 12 feet in length, an albatross is a wonder to behold when in flight.  

Their massive wingspan allows them to glide across the sea for hundreds of miles without having to flap their wings. It is their gliding that makes them one of the most efficient fliers of the animal kingdom.

Known scientifically to be of the Diomedeidae family, these birds are exceptional swimmers and tend to spend more time at sea than on land. Masters of the sea, you can find the albatross flying over the glistening sun-soaked waters of the South Pacific Ocean where it makes its home. Albatrosses are absent from the North Atlantic, however, they can be found on Midway and other islands north of the equator.  

The diet of a typical albatross consists of squid, fish, and the occasional crustacean including small plankton.

What sound do they make?

An albatross can make a series of grunting and squeaking sounds, here’s a video showing you what a Layson Albatross sounds like.

Group characteristics

Albatrosses have life partners, however, they are not monogamous by any means.

As a species, albatrosses are rather unique in that they produce a single egg which both the male and female will care for. The parents take turns caring for the egg and display a great deal of nurturing to their young.

An albatross egg takes around two months of incubation before hatching. It takes another four-five months for the newly hatched albatross to reach full size in adulthood.

How many are there?

As far as predators, these seabirds are unmatched in the skies and face no real competition. However, like so many other species, the albatross has been hunted to the brink of extinction, by humans. Historically, albatrosses were hunted down for their feathers which are used in women’s hats and down cushions.

Humans aside, the only other notable threat are Tiger Sharks who occasionally prey upon albatross chicks.

Watch a video

There’s a great video from National Geographic explaining the challenges facing albatrosses as a species.

Pop culture

Those who are passionate about literature may be familiar with Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s mention of an albatross in his masterpiece, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The magnificent seabird is held in high regard by sailors who take them to be a sign of good fortune.

In the ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ Coleridge’s depiction of the albatross hints that they contain the souls of sailors who drowned at sea. The poem did much to popularize the bird.

The Prince of Wales took a liking to the bird and initiated a task force to help make commercial fishing less destructive to them. Over 100,000 albatrosses are killed every year by long-line fishing hooks.

Interesting facts

The albatross is a powerful seabird that can dive to depths of around 16 feet when searching for prey.

Similar to petrels, another seabird, the albatross has three webbed toes. The hind toe is either absent or takes the form of a claw.

Albatrosses have impressively long lifespans for seabirds. Some can live well into their sixties. Not only can they live into their sixties, but they’ve also been known to still be laying eggs at that age. It is possible for an albatross to live for 70 years.