Articles on this page are available in 1 other language: Spanish (1) (learn more)

Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Wandering albatross pairs mate for life (5), these long-lived birds do not reach sexual maturity until 9 – 11 years of age (4). Nests are constructed from a mound of grasses and moss and a single egg is laid (2). Both parents take it in turns to incubate the egg (that hatches after two months) and then to feed the growing chick, which remains on the nest for around nine months (5). Albatrosses use their enormous wingspan to glide effortlessly on updrafts of wind, they spend the majority of their life in flight and can travel enormous distances (2); one bird was recorded to have travelled 6000 km in 12 days (5). Albatrosses feed at the surface of the water, often roosting on the surface at night (5); they take fish and cephalopods (squid), and will often follow ships feeding on the fish waste they discharge (4).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 1 person

Average rating: 4.0 of 5

Description

The impressive wandering albatross has the largest recorded wingspan of any bird, reaching up to a massive 3.5 metres across (2). Juveniles have chocolate-brown feathers and a white facemask but over time the white colouration expands, leaving only black at the edges of the wings and tail tip (4); they take up to nine years to reach adult plumage (5). The hooked bill is pink and the flesh-coloured legs end in webbed feet, reflecting the largely oceanic life-style of this bird (4). Unusually amongst birds, albatrosses have tubular nostrils on either side of their upper bill instead of the more common fused nostrils of other bird species (2).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Distribution

Wandering albatrosses are found almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere, although occasional sightings just north of the Equator have been reported.

There is some disagreement over how many subspecies of wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) there are, and whether they should be considered separate species. Most subspecies of Diomedea exulans are difficult to tell apart, especially as juveniles, but DNA analyses have shown that significant differences exist.

Diomedea exulans exulans breeds on South Georgia, Prince Edward, Marion, Crozet, Kerguelen, and Macquarie islands. Diomedea exulans dabbenena occurs on Gough and Inaccessible islands, ranging over the Atlantic Ocean to western coastal Africa. Diomedea exulans antipodensis is found primarily on the Antipodes of New Zealand, and ranges at sea from Chile to eastern Australia. Diomedea exulans amsterdamensis is found only on Amsterdam Island and the surrounding seas. Other subspecies names that have become obsolete include Diomedea exulans gibsoni, now commonly considered part of D. e. antipodensis, and Diomedea exulans chionoptera, considered part of D. e. exulans.

Biogeographic Regions: oceanic islands (Native ); indian ocean (Native ); atlantic ocean (Native ); pacific ocean (Native )

  • Birdlife International, 2006. "Species factsheets" (On-line). Accessed November 07, 2006 at http://www.birdlife.org.
  • Shirihai, H. 2002. The Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Range Description

Diomedea exulans breeds on South Georgia (Georgias del Sur) (c. 25% of the global breeding population), Prince Edward Islands (South Africa) (c. 40% of the global population), Crozet Islands and Kerguelen Islands (French Southern Territories) (approximately 10% of the global population) and Macquarie Island (Australia) (approximately four pairs breeding per year), with a total global population of c. 6,100 pairs breeding in any given year (ACAP 2009). At South Georgia, the population declined by 1.8% per annum between 1984 and 2004 (Poncet et al. 2006). The population on Crozet declined by 54% between 1970 - 1986. From the mid 1980s to late 1990s, the Crozet, Kerguelen and Prince Edward Islands populations appeared to be stable or increasing (Weimerskirch et al. 1997, Weimerskirch and Jouventin 1998, Crawford et al. 2003, Ryan et al. 2003), but declines have recently been detected (P. Ryan in litt 2008, H. Weimerskirch in litt. 2008). Overall declines are estimated to exceed 30% over 70 years. Recovery is believed to be impeded by a decline in recruitment rate (Weimerskirch et al. 2006). Non-breeding and juvenile birds remain north of 50°S between subantarctic and subtropical waters with a significant proportion crossing the Indian Ocean to wintering grounds around the southern and eastern coast of Australia (ACAP 2009). A significant proportion of the Crozet and Kerguelen populations disperse into the Pacific and the western coast of South America (H. Weimerskirch in litt. 2008).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Range

Wandering albatrosses spend the majority of their time in flight, soaring over the southern oceans (5). They breed on a number of islands just north of the Antarctic Circle, notably: South Georgia Island (belonging to the UK), Prince Edward and Marion Islands (South Africa), Crozet and Kerguelen Islands (French Southern Territories) and Macquarie Island (Australia) (4).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

All subspecies of wandering albatrosses have extremely long wingspans (averaging just over 3 meters), white underwing coverts, and pink bills. Adult body plumage ranges from pure white to dark brown, and the wings range from being entirely blackish to a combination of black with white coverts and scapulars. They are distinguished from the closely related royal albatross by their white eyelids, pink bill color, lack of black on the maxilla, and head and body shape. On average, males have longer bills, tarsi, tails, and wings than females.

Juveniles of all subspecies are very much alike; they have chocolate-brown plumage with a white face and black wings. As individuals age, most become progressively whiter with each molt, starting with the back.

D. e. exulans averages larger than other recognized subspecies, and is the only taxon that achieves fully white body plumage, and this only in males. Although females do not become pure white, they can still be distinguished from other subspecies by color alone. Adults also have mostly white coverts, with black only on the primaries and secondaries.

Adults of D. e. amsterdamensis have dark brown plumage with white faces and black crowns, and are distinguished from juveniles by their white bellies and throats. In addition to their black tails, they also have a black stripe along the cutting edge of the maxilla, a character otherwise found in D. epomophora but not other forms of D. exulans. Males and females are similar in plumage.

Adults of D. e. antipodensis display sexual dimorphism in plumage, with older males appearing white with some brown splotching, while adult females have mostly brown underparts and a white face. Both sexes also have a brown breast band.

With age, D. e. dabbenena gradually attains white plumage, although it never becomes as white as male D. e. exulans. The wing coverts also appear mostly black, although there may be white patches. Females have more brown splotches than males, and have less white in their wing coverts.

Range length: 1.1 to 1.35 m.

Range wingspan: 2.5 to 3.5 m.

Average wingspan: 3.1 m.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; male larger; sexes colored or patterned differently

Average mass: 8130 g.

Average basal metabolic rate: 20.3649 W.

  • Tickell, W. 1968. Biology of Great Albatrosses. Pp. 1-53 in Antarctic Bird Studies. Baltimore: Horn-Schafer.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Diagnostic Description

Description

Length: 120-130 cm; wingspan: 272-328 cm. Colour: Adult: This plumage attained in a minimum of five years. Mostly white with black primaries and black trailing edge to secondaries. Subadult: blacker above particularly on the upper wing which is mostly black. Immature: Dark brown with white on face and underwing, but retains the dark trailing edge to the wing. The bird whitens with age. Bill large and pale pink with a yellow tip. Feet pink to mauve. Habitat: Open ocean. <388><391><393>
  • Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban & K. Newman (1982). The Birds of Africa, Volume I. Academic Press, London.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© WoRMS for SMEBD

Source: World Register of Marine Species

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

Wandering albatrosses breed on several subantarctic islands, which are characterized by peat soils, tussock grass, sedges, mosses, and shrubs. Wandering albatrosses nest in sheltered areas on plateaus, ridges, plains, or valleys.

Outside of the breeding season, wandering albatrosses are found only in the open ocean, where food is abundant.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; polar ; terrestrial ; saltwater or marine

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland

Aquatic Biomes: pelagic ; coastal

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour Diomedea exulans is a biennial breeding species, although about 30% of successful and 35% of failed breeders (on average) defer breeding beyond the expected year. Adults return to colonies in November, and eggs are laid over a period of 5 weeks during December and January. Most eggs hatch in March, and chicks fledge in December. Birds usually return to colonies when 5-7 years old, though can return when as young as 3 years old. Birds can start breeding as young as 7 or 8 years old (ACAP 2009). Wandering Albatross typically forages in oceanic waters, however considerable time is spent over shelf areas during certain stages of the breeding season (BirdLife International 2004). Satellite tracking has revealed that juvenile birds tend to forage further north than adults (Weimerskirch et al. 2006, British Antarctic Survey unpublished data), bringing them into greater overlap with longline tuna fleets which may be driving falls in recruitment rates (Weimerskirch et al. 1997). Females may also be at greater risk of being caught in tuna fisheries since they tend to forage further north than males (Nel et al. 2002, Weimerskirch et al. 2003, Pinaud and Weimerskirch 2007) and show lower survival (Xavier et al. 2004). It is mostly a diurnal breeder, taking most prey by surface-seizing (ACAP 2009). Habitat Breeding Wandering Albatross nests in open or patchy vegetation near exposed ridges or hillocks (Carboneras 1992b). Diet Adults feed at sea mainly on cephalopods and fish, often following ships and feeding on offal and galley refuse (Carboneras 1992b, Cherel and Klages 1998). Patagonian toothfish Dissostichus eleginoides is the primary fish species in the diet, potentially obtained as discarded offal (ACAP 2009). Foraging range This wide ranging species has a circumpolar distribution, and both breeding and non-breeding birds have very large foraging ranges. Satellite tracking data indicate that breeding birds forage at very long distances from colonies (up to 4,000 km) and that foraging strategies change throughout the breeding season (ACAP 2009). A recent fledgling covered 6,590km in 28 days after leaving the colony on Marion Island (Clokie 2007).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Marine
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Depth range based on 2355 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 2327 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): -1.525 - 21.283
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.459 - 30.651
  Salinity (PPS): 33.216 - 35.585
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.098 - 8.188
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.241 - 2.109
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.479 - 70.561

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): -1.525 - 21.283

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.459 - 30.651

Salinity (PPS): 33.216 - 35.585

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.098 - 8.188

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.241 - 2.109

Silicate (umol/l): 1.479 - 70.561
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Found over the open ocean, albatrosses travel vast distances (5). Breeding takes place on exposed ridges and hillocks, amongst open and patchy vegetation (4).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

Wandering albatrosses primarily eat fish, such as toothfish (Dissostichus), squids, other cephalopods, and occasional crustaceans. The primary method of foraging is by surface-seizing, but they have the ability to plunge and dive up to 1 meter. They will sometimes follow fishing boats and feed on catches with other Procellariiformes, which they usually outcompete because of their size.

Animal Foods: fish; mollusks; aquatic crustaceans

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Molluscivore )

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

Wandering albatrosses are predators, feeding on fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans. They are known for their ability to compete with other seabirds for food, particularly near fishing boats. Although adult birds, their eggs, and their chicks were formerly a source of food to humans, such practices have been stopped.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Although humans formerly hunted wandering albatrosses as food, adults currently have no predators. Their large size, sharp bill, and occasionally aggressive behavior make them undesirable opponents. However, some are inadvertently caught during large-scale fishing operations.

Chicks and eggs, on the other hand, are susceptible to predation from skuas and sheathbills, and formerly were harvested by humans as well. Eggs that fall out of nests or are unattended are quickly preyed upon. Nests are frequently sheltered with plant material to make them less conspicuous. Small chicks that are still in the brooding stage are easy targets for large carnivorous seabirds. Introduced predators, including mice, pigs, cats, rats, and goats are also known to eat eggs and chicks.

Known Predators:

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Displays and vocalizations are common when defending territory or mating. They include croaks, bill-clapping, bill-touching, skypointing, trumpeting, head-shaking, the "ecstatic" gesture, and "the gawky-look". Individuals may also vocalize when fighting over food.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Breeding Category

Visitor
  • Woehler E.J. (compiler) 2006. Species list prepared for SCAR/IUCN/BirdLife International Workshop on Antarctic Regional Seabird Populations, March 2005, Cambridge, UK.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© WoRMS for SMEBD

Source: World Register of Marine Species

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Expectancy

Wandering albatrosses are long-lived. An individual nicknamed "Grandma" was recorded to live over 60 years in New Zealand. Due to the late onset of maturity, with the average age at first breeding about 10 years, such longevity is not unexpected. However, there is fairly high chick mortality, ranging from 30 to 75%. Their slow breeding cycle and late onset of maturity make wandering albatrosses highly susceptible to population declines when adults are caught as bycatch in fishing nets.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
60 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
415 months.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 40 years (wild) Observations: These animals have been estimated to live up to 40 years in the wild (http://www.demogr.mpg.de/longevityrecords), though detailed studies are lacking.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes

Source: AnAge

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Reproduction

Wandering albatrosses have a biennial breeding cycle, and pairs with chicks from the previous season co-exist in colonies with mating and incubating pairs. Pairs unsuccessful in one year may try to mate again in the same year or the next one, but their chances of successfully rearing young are low.

After foraging at sea, males arrive first at the same breeding site every year within days of each other. They locate and reuse old nests or sometimes create new ones. Females arrive later, over the course of a few weeks. Wandering albatrosses have a monogamous mating strategy, forming pair bonds for life. Females may bond temporarily with other males if their partner and nest are not readily visible.

Mating System: monogamous

Copulation occurs in the austral summer, usually around December (February for D. e. amsterdamensis). Rape and extra-pair copulations are frequent, despite their monogamous mating strategy. Pairs nest on slopes or valleys, usually in the cover of grasses or shrubs. Nests are depressions lined with grass, twigs, and soil. A single egg is laid and, if incubation or rearing fails, pairs usually wait until the following year to try again. Both parents incubate eggs, which takes about 78 days on average. Although females take the first shift, males are eager to take over incubation and may forcefully push females off the egg. Untended eggs are in danger of predation by skuas (Stercorarius) and sheathbills (Chionis).

After the chick hatches, they are brooded for about 4 to 6 weeks until they can be left alone at the nest. Males and females alternate foraging at sea. Following the brooding period, both parents leave the chick by itself while they forage. The chicks are entirely dependent on their parents for food for 9 to 10 months, and may wait weeks for them to return. Chicks are entirely independent once they fledge.

Some individuals may reach sexual maturity by age 6. Immature, non-breeding individuals will return to the breeding site. Group displays are common among non-breeding adults, but most breeding adults do not participate.

Breeding interval: Breeding occurs biennially, possibly annually if the previous season's attempt fails.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs from December through March.

Average eggs per season: 1.

Range time to hatching: 74 to 85 days.

Range fledging age: 7 to 10 months.

Range time to independence: 7 to 10 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 6 to 22 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 10 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 6 to 22 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 10 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Males choose the nesting territory, and stay at the nest site more than females before incubation. Parents alternate during incubation, and later during brooding and feeding once the chick is old enough to be left alone at the nest.  Although there is generally equal parental investment, males will tend to invest more as the chick nears fledging. Occasionally, a single parent may successfully rear its chick.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female)

  • Shirihai, H. 2002. The Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  • Tickell, W. 1968. Biology of Great Albatrosses. Pp. 1-53 in Antarctic Bird Studies. Baltimore: Horn-Schafer.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Diomedea exulans

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

Diomedea exulans exulans and Diomedea exulans antipodensis are listed by the   IUCN Red list and   Birdlife International as being vulnerable; Diomedea exulans dabbenena is listed as endangered, and Diomedea exulans amsterdamensis is listed as critically endangered.

All subspecies of Diomedea exulans are highly vulnerable to becoming bycatch of commercial fisheries, and population declines are mostly attributed to this. Introduced predators such as feral cats, pigs, goats, and rats on various islands leads to high mortality rates of chicks and eggs. Diomedea exulans amsterdamensis is listed as critically endangered due to introduced predators, risk of becoming bycatch, small population size, threat of chick mortality by disease, and loss of habitat to cattle farming.

Some conservation measures that have been taken include removal of introduced predators from islands, listing breeding habitats as World Heritage Sites, fishery relocation, and population monitoring.

US Migratory Bird Act: no special status

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A4bd

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Taylor, J. & Butchart, S.

Contributor/s
Cooper, J., Croxall, J., Gales, R., Phillips, R. & Weimerskirsch, H.

Justification
Overall past and predicted future declines amount to a rapid population reduction over a period of three generations, qualifying the species as Vulnerable. At South Georgia, this species is undergoing a rapid decline over three generations (70 years). On the Crozet and Kerguelen Islands, the populations rapidly declined between 1970-1986, then stabilised, but have recently declined again. Longline fishing is believed to be a main cause of decline in this species, causing reductions in adult survival and juvenile recruitment, and this threat is ongoing.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU A4bd) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and listed on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (3).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Population

Population
In 1998, the total annual breeding population was estimated at 8,500 pairs, equivalent to c.28,000 mature individuals (Gales 1998). However, current estimates are 1,553 pairs on South Georgia (Georgias del Sur) (Poncet et al. 2006), 1,800 pairs on the Prince Edward Island (Ryan et al. 2009), c.2,056 pairs on Marion Island (R. Crawford in litt. 2010), c.340 pairs on Iles Crozet (CNRS Chinzè Monitoring Database 2010), c.354 pairs in Iles Kerguelen (CNRS Chinzè Monitoring Database 2011), and 4 pairs on Macquarie Island (DPIWPE 2010, unpublished data), making a total of c. 6,107 annual breeding pairs. Using the same ratio as Gales (1998) for estimating the number of mature individuals, this would equate to approximately 20,100 mature individuals.


Population Trend
Decreasing
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Threats

Major Threats
The observed decline of this species has been shown to be driven largely by incidental catch in fisheries, which has reduced adult survival and juvenile recruitment (Rolland et al. 2010). The vast foraging range means that birds encounter many different longline fleets (BirdLife International 2004). Fisheries were responsible for a 54% decrease in numbers on the Crozet Islands between 1970 and 1986 (Weimerskirch et al. 1997). The South Georgia population disperses throughout the Southern Ocean during the nonbreeding season, although may be most at risk from longline fisheries operating in the south-west Atlantic throughout the year, whereas the Crozet and Prince Edward Island populations are most vulnerable to pelagic longline fishing in the Indian Ocean and Australian region (Weimerskirch 1998, Nel et al. 2002c). The apparent recovery of populations from the Crozet and Prince Edward Islands during the early 1990s was ascribed to reduced fishing effort and relocation of fisheries away from foraging grounds, however increased effort in the late 1990s at various different localities may once again be impacting these populations (Weimerskirch et al. 1997, Nel et al. 2002b), as even low bycatch rates will affect the species due to the small population size (ACAP 2009). The Macquarie population was harvested extensively by sealers and, although it recovered in the early 20th century, experienced subsequent declines that were also attributed to longline fisheries (de la Mare and Kerry 1994). Chicks are vulnerable to the accumulation of anthropogenic debris and fishing hooks (Nel and Nel 1999). In 2007 a survey of Wandering Albatross chicks on Bird Island revealed that half had ingested fishing hooks (British Antarctic Survey unpublished data). On Kerguelen, in some years certain colonies have complete breeding failure owing to predation of young chicks by cats (H. Weimerskirch in litt. 2008). There has been extensive habitat loss and degradation at South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur) due to the activities of Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus gazella (ACAP 2009).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Some populations of wandering albatross have shown recent worrying declines that have been attributed to longline fishing methods; these albatross are relatively aggressive in their dealings with fishing vessels and individuals may drown after attempting to seize bait from longline hooks, getting snared and pulled under. The population on Bird Island (South Georgia) has recently undergone a yearly 10% decrease in post-fledgling survival rate (4).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II and ACAP Annex 1. Population monitoring and foraging studies are being undertaken at South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), the Prince Edward Islands, Crozet, Kerguelen and Macquarie. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has introduced measures which have reduced bycatch of albatrosses around South Georgia by over 99%. Recently, other Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, including the tuna commissions, have taken initial steps to reduce seabird bycatch rates. The Prince Edward Islands are a special nature reserve and Macquarie is a World Heritage Site. Large parts of the breeding colonies on the Crozet and Kerguelen Islands are now part of a Nature Reserve. On Macquarie, cats have been eradicated (Quin 2008) and an operation targeting rabbits, rats, and mice commenced in winter 2010.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue population monitoring programs at all sites to allow assessment of population trends, survival and production rates. Continue tracking studies to determine spatial and temporal overlap with fisheries for populations and life stages where these data do not exist. Promote adoption of best-practice mitigation measures in all fisheries within the species's range, including via intergovernmental mechanisms such as ACAP, FAO and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

The majority of wandering albatross breeding sites are protected within reserves, and the island of Macquarie is a World Heritage Site. This species also receives protection under Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species and studies of a number of breeding populations have recently been undertaken. Adoption of mitigation measures in some areas, coupled with the relocation of other fisheries away from foraging grounds, are moves in the right direction but have yet to lead to signs of recovery in most populations. Widespread modification of harmful longline fishing practices and ongoing monitoring will be required (4) in order to safeguard the future of these elegant giants of the ocean air.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Wandering albatrosses, along with other seabirds, follow fishing boats to take advantage of helpless fish and are reputed to reduce economic output from these fisheries. Albatrosses also become incidental bycatch, hampering conservation efforts.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Wandering albatrosses have extraordinary morphology, with perhaps the longest wingspan of any bird. Their enormous size also makes them popular in ecotourism excursions, especially for birders. Declining population numbers also mean increased conservation efforts. Their relative tameness towards humans makes them ideal for research and study.

Positive Impacts: ecotourism ; research and education

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Risks

IUCN Red List Category

Vulnerable
  • Woehler E.J. (compiler) 2006. Species list prepared for SCAR/IUCN/BirdLife International Workshop on Antarctic Regional Seabird Populations, March 2005, Cambridge, UK.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© WoRMS for SMEBD

Source: World Register of Marine Species

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Wikipedia

Wandering albatross

The wandering albatross, snowy albatross or white-winged albatross[3] (Diomedea exulans) is a large seabird from the family Diomedeidae, which has a circumpolar range in the Southern Ocean. It was the first species of albatross to be described, and was long considered the same species as the Tristan albatross and the Antipodean albatross. A few authors still consider them all subspecies of the same species.[4] The SACC has a proposal on the table to split this species,[5] and BirdLife International has already split it. Together with the Amsterdam albatross, it forms the wandering albatross species complex. The wandering albatross is the largest member of the genus Diomedea (the great albatrosses), one of the largest birds in the world, and one of the best known and studied species of bird in the world.

Taxonomy[edit]

The wandering albatross was first described as Diomedea exulans by Carolus Linnaeus, in 1758, based on a specimen from the Cape of Good Hope.[3] There are two sub-species:

  • Diomedea exulans exulans
  • Diomedea exulans gibsoni (sometimes known as Gibson's albatross, and treated as a full species, Diomedea gibonsi, by some authorities[6])

The gibsoni subspecies nests in the Auckland Islands.[7]

In flight

Some experts considered there to be four subspecies of D. exulans, which they elevated to species status, and use the term wandering albatross to refer to a species complex that includes the proposed species D. antipodensis, D. dabbenena, D. exulans, and D. gibonsi.[8]

Etymology[edit]

Diomedea refers to Diomedes whose companions turned to birds, and exulans or exsul are Latin for "exile" or "wanderer" referring to its extensive flights.[9]

Habitat[edit]

Wandering albatrosses spend most of their life in flight, landing only to breed and feed. Distances traveled each year are hard to measure, but one banded bird was recorded traveling 6000 km in twelve days.

Description[edit]

Diomedea exulans 3 - SE Tasmania.jpg

The wandering albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird, typically ranging from 2.51 to 3.5 m (8 ft 3 in to 11 ft 6 in), with a mean span of 3.1 m (10 ft 2 in) in the Bird Island, South Georgia colony and an average of exactly 3 m (9 ft 10 in) in 123 birds measured off the coast of Malabar, New South Wales.[3][10][11] On the Crozet Islands, adults averaged 3.05 m (10 ft 0 in) in wingspan.[12] The longest-winged examples verified have been about 3.7 m (12 ft 2 in).[11] Even larger examples have been claimed, with two giants reportedly measuring 4.22 m (13 ft 10 in) and 5.3 m (17 ft 5 in) but these reports remain unverified.[11] As a result of its wingspan, it is capable of remaining in the air without flapping its wings for several hours at a time (travelling 22 m for every metre of drop).[13][14][15] The length of the body is about 107 to 135 cm (3 ft 6 in to 4 ft 5 in)[10][16][17] with females being slightly smaller than males. Adults can weigh from 5.9 to 12.7 kg (13 to 28 lb), although most will weigh 6.35 to 11.91 kg (14.0 to 26.3 lb).[3][11][18][19] On Macquarie Island, three males averaged 8.4 kg (19 lb) and three females averaged 6.2 kg (14 lb).[20] In the Crozet Islands, males averaged 9.44 kg (20.8 lb) while females averaged 7.84 kg (17.3 lb).[12] However, 10 unsexed adults from the Crozets averaged 9.6 kg (21 lb).[21] On South Georgia, 52 males were found to average 9.11 kg (20.1 lb) while 53 females were found to average 7.27 kg (16.0 lb).[22] Immature birds have been recorded weighing as much as 16.1 kg (35 lb) during their first flights (at which time they may still have fat reserves that will be shed as they continue to fly).[11] On South Georgia, fledglings were found to average 10.9 kg (24 lb).[23] Albatrosses from outside the "snowy" wandering albatross group (D. e. exulans) are smaller but are now generally deemed to belong to different species.[22][24] The plumage varies with age, with the juveniles starting chocolate brown. As they age they become whiter.[3] The adults have white bodies with black and white wings. Males have whiter wings than females with just the tips and trailing edges of the wings black. They also show a faint peach spot on the side of the head. The wandering albatross is the whitest of the wandering albatross species complex, the other species having a great deal more brown and black on the wings and body as breeding adults, very closely resembling immature wandering albatrosses. The large bill is pink, as are the feet.[17] They also have a salt gland that is situated above the nasal passage and helps desalinate their bodies, due to the high amount of ocean water that they imbibe. It excretes a high saline solution from their nose.[25]

Ecology[edit]

Breeding population and trends[17]
LocationPopulationDateTrend
South Georgia Islands1,553 pair2006Decreasing 4%/year
Prince Edward Island1,850 pair2003Stable
Marion Island1,600 pair2008
Crozet Islands2,000 pair1997Declining
Kerguelen Islands1,100 pair1997
Macquarie Island10 pair2006
Total26,0002007


Wandering albatrosses have the largest wingspan of any living bird.

Behaviour[edit]

Wanderers have a large range of displays from screams and whistles to grunts and bill clapping.[3] When courting they will spread their wings, wave their heads, and rap their bills together, while braying.[17] They can live for over 50 years.[26]

Breeding[edit]

Pairs of wandering albatrosses mate for life and breed every two years. Breeding takes place on subantarctic islands and commences in early November. The nest is a mound of mud and vegetation, and is placed on an exposed ridge near the sea. During the early stages of the chick's development, the parents take turns sitting on the nest while the other searches for food. Later, both adults hunt for food and visit the chick at irregular intervals.

Feeding[edit]

They are night feeders[16] and feed on cephalopods, small fish, and crustaceans[3] and on animal refuse that floats on the sea, eating to such excess at times that they are unable to fly and rest helplessly on the water. They are prone to following ships for refuse. They can also make shallow dives.

Reproduction[edit]

Diomedea exulans - Muséum de Toulouse

The wandering albatross breeds every other year.[16] At breeding time they occupy loose colonies on isolated island groups in the Southern Ocean. They lay one egg that is white, with a few spots, and is about 10 cm (3.9 in) long. They lay this egg between 10 December and 5 January. The nests are a large bowl built of grassy vegetation and soil peat,[3] that is 1 metre wide at the base and half a metre wide at the apex. Incubation takes about 11 weeks and both parents are involved.[16] They are a monogamous species, usually for life. Adolescents return to the colony within six years; however they will not start breeding until 11 to 15 years.[10] About 30% of fledglings survive.[3]

Wandering albatross at South Georgia Island

Range[edit]

Individual taking off

The wandering albatross breeds on South Georgia Island, Crozet Islands, Kerguelen Islands, Prince Edward Islands, and Macquarie Island, is seen feeding year round off the Kaikoura Peninsula on the east coast of the south island of New Zealand[27] and it ranges in all the southern oceans from 28° to 60°.[1]

Relationship with humans[edit]

Sailors used to capture the birds for their long wing bones, which they manufactured into tobacco-pipe stems. The early explorers of the great Southern Sea cheered themselves with the companionship of the albatross in their dreary solitudes; and the evil fate of he who shot with his cross-bow the "bird of good omen" is familiar to readers of Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The metaphor of "an albatross around his neck" also comes from the poem and indicates an unwanted burden causing anxiety or hindrance. In the days of sail the bird often accompanied ships for days, not merely following it, but wheeling in wide circles around it without ever being observed to land on the water. It continued its flight, apparently untired, in tempestuous as well as moderate weather.

The Maori of New Zealand used albatross as a food source. They caught them by baiting hooks.[28] Because the wing bones of albatross were light but very strong Maori used these to create a number of different items including koauau (flutes),[29] needles, tattooing chisel blades,[30] and barbs for fish hooks.[31]

Conservation[edit]

The IUCN lists the wandering albatross as vulnerable status.[1] Adult mortality is 5% to 7% per year.[3] It has an occurrence range of 64,700,000 km2 (25,000,000 sq mi), although its breeding range is only 1,900 km2 (730 sq mi).

In 2007, there were an estimated 25,500 adult birds, broken down to 1,553 pairs on South Georgia Island, 1,850 pairs on Prince Edward Island, 1,600 on Marion Island, 2,000 on Crozet Islands, 1,100 on the Kerguelen Islands, and 12 on Macquarie Island for a total of 8,114 breeding pairs. The South Georgia population is shrinking at 1.8% per year. The levels of birds at Prince Edward and the Crozet Islands seem to be stabilizing although most recently there may be some shrinking of the population.[17]

The biggest threat to their survival is longline fishing; however, pollution, mainly plastics and fishing hooks, are also taking a toll.

The CCAMLR has introduced measures to reduce bycatch of albatrosses around South Georgia by 99%, and other regional fishing commissions are taking similar measures to reduce fatalities. The Prince Edward Islands are a nature preserve, and the Macquarie Islands are a World Heritage site. Finally, large parts of the Crozet Islands and the Kerguelen Islands are a nature preserve.[17]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c BirdLife International (2012). "Diomedea exulans". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Brand, S. (2008)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Robertson, C. J. R. (2003)
  4. ^ Clements, J. (2007)
  5. ^ Remsen Jr., J. V. (2009)
  6. ^ "Gibson's Albatross (Diomedea gibsoni) Robertson & Warham, 1992". Avibase. Retrieved 25 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "Gibson’s Albatross". Species Profile and Threats Database. Dept of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Australia. 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  8. ^ Burg, T. M.; Croxall, J. P. (2004). "Global population structure and taxonomy of the wandering albatross species complex" (PDF). Molecular Ecology 13 (8): 2345–2355. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2004.02232.x. ISSN 0962-1083. PMID 15245406. 
  9. ^ Gotch, A. F. (1995)
  10. ^ a b c Dunn, Jon, L. & Alderfer, Jonathan (2006)
  11. ^ a b c d e Wood, Gerald (1983). The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats. ISBN 978-0-85112-235-9. 
  12. ^ a b Shaffer, S. A., Weimerskirch, H., & Costa, D. P. (2001). Functional significance of sexual dimorphism in Wandering Albatrosses, Diomedea exulans. Functional Ecology, 15(2), 203-210.
  13. ^ Rattenborg, N. C. (2006)
  14. ^ Weimerskirch, H. (2004)
  15. ^ Richardson, M. (2002)
  16. ^ a b c d Harrison, C. & Greensmith, A. (1993)
  17. ^ a b c d e f BirdLife International (2008)
  18. ^ [1]/
  19. ^ "Encyclopedia of the Antarctic, v. 1 & v. 2. Beau Riffenburgh (Editor). Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-97024-2.
  20. ^ CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (1992), ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5.
  21. ^ Weimerskirch, H., Shaffer, S. A., Mabille, G., Martin, J., Boutard, O., & Rouanet, J. L. (2002). Heart rate and energy expenditure of incubating wandering albatrosses: basal levels, natural variation, and the effects of human disturbance. Journal of Experimental Biology, 205(4), 475-483.
  22. ^ a b CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses, 2nd Edition by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (2008), ISBN 978-1-4200-6444-5.
  23. ^ Xavier, J., Croxall, J., Trathan, P., & Rodhouse, P. (2003). Inter-annual variation in the cephalopod component of the diet of the wandering albatross, Diomedea exulans, breeding at Bird Island, South Georgia. Marine Biology, 142(3), 611-622.
  24. ^ Burg, T. M., & Croxall, J. P. (2004). Global population structure and taxonomy of the wandering albatross species complex. Molecular Ecology, 13(8), 2345-2355.
  25. ^ Ehrlich, Paul R. (1988)
  26. ^ [2], Is foraging efficiency a key parameter in aging? (2010)
  27. ^ Shihirai 2002 p.90
  28. ^ "Matau Toroa (Albatross hook)". Collections Online. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 17 July 2010. 
  29. ^ "Koauau (flute)". Collections Online. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 17 July 2010. 
  30. ^ "Uhi Ta Moko (tattooing instruments)". Collections Online. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 17 July 2010. 
  31. ^ "Matau (fish hook)". Collections Online. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 17 July 2010. 

References[edit]

  • BirdLife International (2008). "Wandering Albatross - BirdLife Species Factsheet". Data Zone. Retrieved 17 Feb 2009. 
  • Brands, Sheila (Aug 14, 2008). "Systema Naturae 2000 / Classification - Diomedea subg. Diomedea -". Project: The Taxonomicon. Retrieved 12 Feb 2009. 
  • Clements, James (2007). The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World (6 ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-4501-9. 
  • Dunn, Jon L.; Alderfer, Jonathon (2006). "Accidentals, Extinct Species". In Levitt, Barbara. National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (fifth ed.). Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society. p. 467. ISBN 978-0-7922-5314-3. 
  • Ehrlich, Paul R.; Dobkin, David, S.; Wheye, Darryl (1988). The Birders Handbook (First ed.). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. pp. 29–31. ISBN 0-671-65989-8. 
  • Gotch, A. F. (1995) [1979]. "Albatrosses, Fulmars, Shearwaters, and Petrels". Latin Names Explained. A Guide to the Scientific Classifications of Reptiles, Birds & Mammals. New York, NY: Facts on File. p. 191. ISBN 0-8160-3377-3. 
  • Harrison, Colin; Greensmith, Alan (1993). "Non-Passerines". In Bunting, Edward. Birds of the World (First ed.). New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley. p. 48. ISBN 1-56458-295-7. 
  • Rattenborg, Niels, C. (11 May 2006). "Do Birds Sleep in Flight?". Naturwissenschatten, Vol. 93 Number 9.
  • Remsen Jr., J. V.; et al. (30 Jan 2009). "Proposal (388) to South American Classification Committee: Split Diomedea exulans into four species". South American Classification Committee. American Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 17 Feb 2009. 
  • Richardson, Michael (27 Sep 2002). "Endangered seabirds / New fishing techniques undercut an old talisman : Modern mariners pose rising threat to the albatross." Herald Tribune.
  • Robertson, C. J. R. (2003). "Albatrosses (Diomedeidae)". In Hutchins, Michael. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. 8 Birds I Tinamous and Ratites to Hoatzins (2 ed.). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group. pp. 113–116, 118–119. ISBN 0-7876-5784-0. 
  • Shirihai, Hadoram (2002) [2002]. "Great Albatrosses". Antarctic Wildlife The birds and mammals. Finland: Alula Press. p. 90. ISBN 951-98947-0-5. 
  • Weimerskirch, Henri (Oct 2004). "Wherever the Wind May Blow." Natural History Magazine.
  • Lindsey, T.R. 1986. The Seabirds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife Sydney.
  • Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (eds) 1993. Handbook of Australian New Zealand And Antarctic Birds Vol. 2: (Raptors To Lapwings). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Parmelee, D.F. 1980. Bird Island in Antarctic Waters. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Further reading[edit]

Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!