Waved Albatross (Birds)

ORDER

Procellariiformes

FAMILY

Diomedeidae

GENUS & SPECIES

Diomedea irrorata
Waved Albatross

KEY FEATURES

Spends its entire life in tropical climates — the only albatross to do so
Lives an average of 30-40 years; first breeds at 5-6 years of age and mates for life Unique among albatrosses, it builds no nest and lays its egg on the bare ground

WHERE IN THE WORLD?

Found on and in the waters off of Espanola, or Hood Island, in the Galapagos Islands; also occurs on Isla de la Plata off Ecuador
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LIFECYCLE

Unlike any other albatross, the waved albatross is a year-round resident of the tropics; it logs thousands of miles flying in circles over the same warm waters.


HABITAT

This seabird is the only albatross species to live its life in the tropics. It is mainly pelagic (ocean-going), though it may approach the shores of Ecuador and Peru in search of certain foods. Most of the bird’s life is spent on the open seas and near coastal waters until it is time to breed. During that period, albatross colonies nest on bare lava among boulders in open areas surrounded by bush-es.The birds frequent Espahola (Hood) Island in the Galapagos and Isla de la Plata (La Plata Island) off Ecuador
A Same place, new year About 12,000 pairs of waved albatrosses return to the same breeding ground each year.
A Same place, new year
About 12,000 pairs of waved albatrosses return to the same breeding ground each year.

FOOD & FEEDING

Squid is the main staple of the waved albatross’s diet.The bird feeds mainly at night, when squid and other sea creatures come to the surface, but it will also feed during the day. Since the waved albatross has difficulty maneuvering in flight, it sits on the water and then seizes prey with its bill as its victim swims to the surface.The bird’s diet also includes fish and crustaceans, and the bird often scavenges scraps tossed from ships, particularly animal fat. It may occasionally follow and attack boobies (another Galapagos bird) and steal their regurgitated food.
A 6′ stretch The long-winged albatross glides to new feeding areas.
A 6' stretch The long-winged albatross glides to new feeding areas.
The waved albatross is thought to be the most primitive species of albatross, due to its simple coloration and lack of a nest.
Sailors consider it bad luck to kill an albatross.
The waved albatross’s egg weighs up to 11% of the female’s bodyweight and takes a good deal of energy to lay. After laying the egg, the female immediately goes out to sea to feed, leaving the male to incubate first.

BREEDING

The waved albatross usually breeds for the first time at 5-6 years of age, with the male arriving first to the nesting colony.The birds mate for life; if they are pairing for the first time, they go through an elaborate courtship dance. During pair formation, the male and female face each other and go through a variety of displays; they may clap the lower bill up and down, touch sides and point their bills to the sky; one bird will even circle its bill around its partner’s bill.
After mating, the female lays one large, white egg on bare rock, and both parents incubate for a total of about 65 days.When the brown chick hatches, the parents first feed it only stomach oil, produced during the digestion of the parents’ food.The parent squirts a stream of the foul-smelling liquid into the chick’s bill. Later; the parents feed the chick a mixture of partly digested fish and squid in addition to the oil. For about 4 weeks, the parents take turns protecting the chick and flying off in search of food.Then both parents leave the growing chick alone while hunting for food. Skuas and sheathbills often prey upon the chick during this time. After a long fledging period, about 167 days, the chick usually flies off to sea alone while the parents are away. The adults will return to the same nesting site each year, but will forego the elaborate courtship ritual in following years.

CONSERVATION

With current populations estimated at 50,000-70,000, the waved albatross is not globally threatened. But it is considered vulnerable because of its high egg mortality rate.The birds are protected, but there are still some illegal egg collections. With its limited range, oil spills and chemical pollution are serious threats to the waved albatross.
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BEHAVIOR

Also known as the Galapagos albatross, this bird floats in the air for hours at a time, mostly in search of food. It relies heavily on wind to stay aloft. During calm weather, it can be stranded in the water for hours until the air currents build. The albatross glides along with stiff wings using a technique known as “dynamic soaring,” alternately rising and falling to take advantage of the wind. The waved albatross requires some kind of runway and a running start to take off. The bird may have problems landing, too, and occasionally crashes into objects.
Usually silent in flight, the waved albatross croaks, shrieks or gargles when competing for food. Courting birds make a rattling sound, formed by rapidly opening and shutting the bill.

SURFACE TO AIR

 Partners
Partners…
A mated pair switches duties at the nesting site; one is about to incubate while the other prepares to take flight in search of food.
Running start
Running start…
Once in the air,the bird is a master glider, but taking off is a chore. It spreads its wings on its way down the runway.
 Slow beginning
Slow beginning…
The albatross runs in an ungainly fashion down the sloped makeshift runway, wings beating and legs pumping.
 Art in the air
Art in the air
The albatross flies gracefully away to feed in the open sea, gliding up and down with the wind currents above the waves.
A All alone A brown, down-covered chick nervously waits for its parents to return with food.
A All alone A brown, down-covered chick nervously waits for its parents to return with food.

Profile

Waved Albatross

The albatross soars on wings made for gliding, and its dark feathers resist abrasion by salt and sunlight better than lighter-colored feathers.
Waved Albatross

CREATURE COMPARISONS

Buller’s albatross (Diomedea bulleri) is found on the islands of Solander, Snares,Three Kings and Chatham off Australia and New Zealand in areas of bushy vegetation, far from the waved albatross’s haunts in the Galapagos Islands.The bird’s head is gray and its forehead and cap are white, in contrast to the brown body and white head of the waved albatross. Its key identifiable feature is a thick, black bar under its wings. Buller’s albatross is slightly smaller than its relative, measuring 31″ long and weighing up to 7 lbs. Like the waved albatross, Buller’s albatross breeds in colonies, follows ships for scraps and eats fish from the water’s surface.
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VITAL
STATISTICS
Weight Length 9 lbs.
33-36″
WINGSPAN 6′
Sexual Maturity All year
Breeding Season April-June
Number of’ Eggs 1
Incubation Period 65 days
Fledging Period 167 days
Breeding Interval 1-2 years
Typical Diet Squid, fish, crustaceans and scraps from ships
Lifespan 30-40 years

RELATED SPECIES

• The waved albatross is I of 12 species in the genus Diomedea. Included in the genus are the great albatrosses, which have ‘the largest wingspans of any bird — over II’. , In this group are the -wandering albatross, D. exulans; the royal albatross, D. epomophora and the Amsterdam albatross, D. amsteidamensis. The genus Diomedea is 1 of 2 genera in the family Diomedeidae; the other is Phoebetria.

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