"No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings." William Blake
This week let’s soar to the sky with the Wandering Albatross.
There are twenty-two species of Albatross, but I choose to write about the Wandering Albatross because it is the largest flying bird in the world. Its wingspan can reach up to eleven and one-half feet. That’s impressive! As a matter of fact there is a room in my house that this Albatross could not stretch out in. Now that I think of it, there are a couple of rooms in my house in which he would be very uncomfortable.
Before we go any further, I would like to give the children reading this post, a bit of a geography lesson. I know I have a few third grade classes that visit and I thought this would be a good time to explain the Arctic and the Antarctic. I remember how confused I was about these two landmasses, or circles as they are often referred to. I never could remember which was the top and which was the bottom. It is important to know this. The Arctic Circle is north of us. Think about it as over our heads. The Antarctic Circle is below us, at our feet. Or if you like, and it helps you to remember, The Arctic Circle is also called the North Pole (Santa’s hangout). The Antarctic Circle is also called the South Pole (Wandering Albatross hangout). Please keep in mind that the names North Pole and the South Pole are only theoretical points and not real places. The real place names are Arctic and Antarctic.
This picture should help. Be sure to locate your country on the map. It will give you a reference point.
Photo Courtesy of: http://regentsearth.com
The Wandering Albatross lives near Antarctica. They can be found on several islands southeast of the Horn of Africa.
Map Courtesy of Wikipedia
All species of Albatross are seabirds. They are not like the birds outside your window, perched and twittering on a nearby tree. Seabirds live most of their lives in flight, landing only to nest and raise their young. The Wandering Albatross has been tracked and scientists know that they can fly up to 10,000 miles in a single journey.
Wandering Albatross mate for life and the female will lay one egg, but the male and female take turns incubating (sitting on them to keep them warm) their chick. They will also feed their baby bird for about nine months, until the chick is ready to fly. A parent will fly as far as 5000 miles in order to collect food for its chick. A baby Albatross will sit alone on its nest for months until it is capable of heading out on its own. The chicks have chocolate brown feathers and it will take up to nine years for their adult plumage to grow in. A nine-month-old chick can weigh as much as or more than its mother.
Juvenile Wandering Albatross - Photo courtesy of: http://thebirdguide.com
An Albatross has a varied seafood diet. They will eat squid, octopus, crab, shrimp, lobsters and other crustaceans (hard shelled animal) they find floating on the surface. They spy their food while flying over the ocean, and then swoop down to scoop it up. They can dive up to 15 feet deep to grab their dinner.
Photo courtesy of: http://www.bbc.co.uk
The biggest threat to this magnificent bird is a fishing net. The Albatross will follow fishing boats to steal the bait from the fishing hooks. They then get caught in the fishing nets and drown. In order to counter this problem many of their nesting sites have been protected. “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.” (http://www.arkive.org/wandering-albatross/diomedea-exulans/image-G6732.html)
According to our friends at the IUCN*, the Wandering Albatross is vulnerable.
I have found a wonderful video narrated by David Attenborourgh.
Here are some web sites to explore if you wish to learn more.
Photo courtesy of: http://www.bbc.co.uk
Before I leave you, I would like you to go back to the top of the post and read the quote by author William Blake. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the Albatross, but it has much meaning. After you have considered it, I would love to hear what the quote means to you.
It was fun to write this blog for you. I hope you enjoyed it, and will consider leaving me a comment, or sharing the blog with your friends and family. As you can see from the below picture, the Albatross had a lot of fun too!
As always, my sincere thanks to Arkive.org, and bbc.co.uk, for pictures and information.
Jeanne E. Rogers, Author
The Sword of Demelza
An Award Winning Middle Grade Fantasy Where Endangered Animals Heroes Roam the Pages