How Big is the Wandering Albatross?
The wandering albatross is the world’s biggest albatross. It’s also the bird with the biggest wingspan of any living bird. Measured from tip to tip, its wings can reach up to 3.5 metres across (11.5 feet)! Since the Wandering Albatross is also very light for its size (adults weigh about 6-12 kg, or 13-26 lb) these birds are excellent flyers. They can glide for several hours without moving their wings. They can spend weeks at a time over the open seas without ever reaching land.
Albatrosses have captured the imagination of sailors for centuries. Explorers in the Southern Ocean would often found themselves comforted when an albatross would appear from nowhere in the middle of the lonely seas. A famous poem, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798, tells of bad luck that fell upon a ship when one of the crew member shot an albatross with a crossbow.
Albatrosses Are Endangered
Albatrosses eat squid and small fish. They also scavenge dead fish from the surface of the sea. Hordes of albatrosses will flock behind tuna fishing boats, squabbling over discarded bait. Occasionally, if a baited fishhook doesn’t sink, an albatross will get caught on the hook and drown. In the 1990’s, some scientists were afraid that all types of albatross would go completely extinct. Since then, people have been trying to find new ways to catch tuna, but the Wandering Albatross is still in danger.
When a pair of Wandering Albatrosses are ready to lay an egg, they will build a roughly cone-shaped nest. Inside the next, the mother albatross lays a single egg. The baby albatross eats about 100 kg (220 lb) of food, and grows up to be heavier than its parents! After 10 months on the nest, at the start of spring in the southern hemisphere, the baby albatross takes to the skies. After 5 to 10 years, it will return to the place it was hatched, to start a family of its own. Unfortunately, it is the young albatrosses that are most likely to get caught on a tuna fishing line.