Sailors have long considered it bad luck to kill an albatross. And for good reason. The mighty bird and seafaring men and women seek the same things: open seas and favorable winds.
The albatross seems built for both.
Two species — the wandering and the southern royal albatross — share the title of birds with the largest wingspan in the world. On average, their wings spread to three meters (9.8 feet). The longest recorded wing specimens reach almost four meters.
They use those big wings to travel incredible distances. Wandering albatrosses have been known to fly 120,000 kilometers (74,500 miles) across the Antarctic Ocean in a single year.
Great albatrosses, the larger members of the albatross family, are huge. Still, flapping such massive wings takes a lot of effort, which is why they do so as little as possible.
The wandering albatross (pictured here) and southern royal albatross have the longest wingspans in the world, making it perfectly adapted to extensive gliding
They are made for gliding. In fact, they are so well designed that when in the air, they will glide an impressive 22 to 23 meters for every meter of altitude they lose in the process.
The birds also use a technique called dynamic soaring, whereby they surf along the boundary between two air masses. This allows them to stay up for a long time with virtually no effort aside from a few occastional corrections to their course.
But their flying ability is about more than just big wings and skill. Albatross anatomy includes a few unique features that aid them in a life of almost constant flight.
Albatrosses have their own version of pitot tubes — devices that allow airplane pilots to measure airspeed — in the form of two tubes that run along the sides of their beaks.
They can also lock their wings in place when they are fully extended so they can glide without any muscle action. As a result, an albatross heart rate during flight is almost as low as when it is resting.
Great albatrosses such as the wandering albatross (pictured here) spend very little time on solid ground. When they do, it’s usually to breed
Given how relaxing it is for albatrosses to stay in the air, it’s probably unsurprising that they spend very little time on solid ground. The birds spend most of their lives out on the endless expanse of the ocean. When they come to shore, it’s almost invariably to breed.
By bird standards, albatrosses lead unusually long lives — often well beyond 50 years. Since they have time, many of them take their time before they settle down — figuratively speaking. Some species don’t start to mate until they are 10 years old. Choosing a mate is an elaborate affair for albatrosses and once they commit, it’s for good.
The monogamous birds spend a lot of time and effort on rearing their offspring, laying only a single egg at a time and usually only once every two years. They share parenting duties with both parents incubating the eggs — a process that takes longer than for any other bird. And once the chick hatches, the parents spend several more months on land, tending to their offspring before all three of them can head out to sea together.
- Original Big Bird Caroll Spinney speaks about leaving Sesame Street after 50 years
- 241 bird nests in islands in central
- 241 bird nests in islands in central region
- Meet Anastasia Soare: the brains behind a billion dollar eyebrow empire
- Wind turbines acting as ‘apex predators’ by driving down bird numbers, study finds
- Georgia Steel said she wanted to MARRY Sam Bird – just hours before shock split amid cheating rumours
- Bed Bath & Beyond's stock soars after poaching Target leader for its new CEO
- Albatrosses to spy out illegal fishing
- French researchers use albatrosses to spy out illegal fishing
- Egg numbers soar but could be cause for concern
- Flying high with bird photographer Leila Jeffreys
- French Navy equips 250 albatrosses with beacons that detect illegal fishing trawlers
- Albatross centre ready to beat heat
- Kererū soars away with Bird of the Year win
- 'We have your friend': US bird rescuers on lookout for owner of pigeon in a bedazzled vest
- Rare Mandarin duck's arrival has Manhattan bird watchers scratching their heads
- Prison introduces birds including one named Brexit to lift inmates’ spirits
- Urban Birder David Lindo shares his passion for bird spotting
- Grand design for Flamborough coastguard station needs bird-friendly glass
- Man fined for trapping wild birds
The albatross: A bird built to soar have 1022 words, post on www.dw.com at November 5, 2018. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.