Wandering Albatross

These remarkably efficient gliders, named after the Greek hero Diomedes, have the largest wingspan of any bird on the planet

Wandering Albatross

Name: Wandering Albatross, Snowy Albatross, White-winged Albatross (Diomedea exulans)

Length: Up to 135 cm.

Weight: 6 to 12kg.

Location: All oceans except in the North Atlantic.

Conservation status: Vulnerable.

Diet: Cephalopods, small fish, crustaceans.

Appearance: White with grey-black wings, hooked bill.

How do Wandering Albatrosses feed?

Wandering Albatrosses make shallow dives when hunting. They’ll also attempt to eat almost anything they come across and will follow ships in the hopes of feeding on its garbage. They can gorge themselves so much that they become unable to fly and just have to float on the water.

How fast do Wandering Albatrosses fly?

Wandering Albatrosses can fly up to 40 km per hour.

Wandering albatross at sea

What are Wandering Albatross mating rituals like?

Wandering Albatrosses mature sexually around 11 years of age.

When courting, the male Wandering Albatross will spread his wings, wave his head around, and rap his bills against that of the female while making a braying noise.

The pair will mate for life, breeding every 2 years. Mating season starts in early November with the Albatrosses creating nests of mud and grass on one of the Sub-Antarctic islands.

The female will lay 1 egg about 10 cm long, sometime between the middle of December and early January. Incubation takes around 11 weeks, the parents taking turns.

Once the chick is born the adults switch off between hunting and staying to care for the chick. The hunting parent returns to regurgitate stomach oil for the chick to feed on. Eventually both parents will start to hunt at the same time, visiting with the chick at widening intervals.

A wandering albatross with its chick

How long do Wandering Albatrosses live?

Wandering Albatrosses can live for over 50 years.

How many Wandering Albatrosses are there today?

There are about 25.200 adult Wandering Albatrosses in the world today.

Do Wandering Albatrosses have any natural predators?

Because they’re so big and spend almost all of their lives in flight, Wandering Albatrosses have almost no natural predators.

7 Wonderful Wandering Albatross Facts

  • The Wandering Albatross is the largest member of its genus (Diomedea) and is one of the largest birds in the world.
  • Wandering Albatrosses are also one of the best known and most studied species of birds.
  • Diomedea refers to Diomedes, a hero in Greek mythology; of all the Acheaens he and Ajax were 2nd only to Achilles in prowess. In mythology all of his companions turned into birds. Exulans is Latin for “exile” or “wanderer.”
  • Wandering Albatrosses have the largest wingspan of any bird in the world today, stretching up to 3.5 metres across.
  • Wandering Albatrosses are great gliders – they can soar through the sky without flapping their wings for several hours at a time. They’re so efficient at flying that they can actually use up less energy in the air than they would while sitting in a nest.
  • Wandering Albatrosses have a special gland above their nasal passage that excretes a high saline solution. This helps keep salt level in their body, combating all the salt water they take in.
  • Wandering Albatrosses get whiter the older they get.  

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