Engineers identify key to albatross' marathon flight

The albatross is one of the most efficient travelers in the animal world. One species, the wandering albatross, can fly nearly 500 miles in a single day, with just an occasional flap of its wings. The birds use their formidable ...

Featherweight songbird is a long-distance champ

A tiny songbird weighing just two tablespoons of sugar migrates from the Arctic to Africa and back, a distance of up to 29,000 kilometres (18,000 miles), scientists reported on Wednesday.

Asian 'phoenix' lived with the dinosaurs

Palaeontologists said on Wednesday they had found the fossilised remains of a giant bird that lived in Central Asia more than 65 million years ago, a finding which challenges theories about the diversity of early birds.

On the sizeable wings of albatrosses

(PhysOrg.com) -- An oceanographer may be offering the best explanation yet of one of the great mysteries of flight--how albatrosses fly such vast distances, even around the world, almost without flapping their wings. The ...

New study—how to save a seabird

In the 1990s, the endangered status of the short-tailed albatross catalyzed efforts to reduce the number of birds accidentally killed as bycatch in Alaska, home to the country's biggest fisheries. Marine fisheries scientist ...

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Albatross

Diomedea Thalassarche Phoebastria Phoebetria

Albatrosses, of the biological family Diomedeidae, are large seabirds allied to the procellariids, storm-petrels and diving-petrels in the order Procellariiformes (the tubenoses). They range widely in the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific. They are absent from the North Atlantic, although fossil remains show they once occurred there too and occasional vagrants are found.

Albatrosses are among the largest of flying birds, and the great albatrosses (genus Diomedea) have the largest wingspans of any extant birds. The albatrosses are usually regarded as falling into four genera, but there is disagreement over the number of species.

Albatrosses are highly efficient in the air, using dynamic soaring and slope soaring to cover great distances with little exertion. They feed on squid, fish and krill by either scavenging, surface seizing or diving. Albatrosses are colonial, nesting for the most part on remote oceanic islands, often with several species nesting together. Pair bonds between males and females form over several years, with the use of 'ritualised dances', and will last for the life of the pair. A breeding season can take over a year from laying to fledging, with a single egg laid in each breeding attempt.

Of the 21 species of albatrosses recognised by the IUCN, 19 are threatened with extinction. Numbers of albatrosses have declined in the past due to harvesting for feathers, but today the albatrosses are threatened by introduced species such as rats and feral cats that attack eggs, chicks and nesting adults; by pollution; by a serious decline in fish stocks in many regions largely due to overfishing; and by long-line fishing. Long-line fisheries pose the greatest threat, as feeding birds are attracted to the bait, become hooked on the lines, and drown. Identified stakeholders such as governments, conservation organisations and people in the fishing industry are all working toward reducing this bycatch.

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