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Some species are critically endangered.
Antartica, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America, North Pacific (Hawaii, Japan, California and Alaska), Galapagos islands
Wingspans of wandering albatrosses can reach up to 3.5 meters (11 ft)
There are 22 species of Albatrosses in Diomedeidae family
Most legendary of all birds
- Diomedea (Great albatrosses)
- Thalassarche (Mollymawks)
- Phoebastria (North Pacific albatrosses)
- Phoebetria (Sooty albatrosses)
Albatrosses use their morphologically adapted wings and large wingspans to travel long distances without using muscles. Instead of flapping the wings, they use specialised gliding techniques to minimise the use of muscles and energy.
The wingspans of Wandering albatrosses can reach up to 3.5 metres (11 ft). This is the largest wingspan of any bird.
An albatross can live up to 60 years and in that life time it would have travelled millions of kilometres.
They attain sexual maturity at around 5 years but usually breed when they are 7 - 10 years old.
Where do you find albatross?
Most albatrosses are found in the Southern Hemisphere: Antarctica, Australia, South Africa, South America.
Only 3 albatross species are found exclusively in the North Pacific (Hawaii, Japan, California and Alaska): the Short-tailed albatross, Black-footed albatross and Laysan albatross.
Waved albatross is an exception that breeds in the equatorial Galapagos Islands and feeds in the South American coast.
What do albatross eat?
Different species of albatrosses have different dietary habits, but like other seabirds they rely almost entirely on seafood. They would feed on:
- Squids, octopus and other cephalopods
- Krill, crabs, shrimps, lobsters and other crustaceans
- In tough times, they can also feed on carrion and zooplanktons
What are the main threats to albatross?
Bycatch poses the biggest threat to almost all albatross species. They dive for the fish bait used on longline fishing before it sinks into the sea, get entangled on the hook and drown.
Albatrosses breed on remote islands forming large colonies. However, such spaces are reducing due to the impact of invasive species. Rats prey on the eggs in albatross nests and rabbits can quickly destroy a nesting area with their burrows. Read more about the impact of invasive species on Macquarie Island, a World Heritage Site in the Southern Ocean.
Albatross chicks choke on our waste. Every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks on the Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean die because they choke or are poisoned by plastics and other human waste that their parents mistakenly feed to them. The work of photographer Chris Jordan chillingly illustrates the results of this plastic diet on albatross chicks (images may be disturbing).
What is WWF doing?
WWF's International Smart Gear Competition identifies real-world fishing solutions that allow fishermen to fish smarter while helping to maintain ocean health.
After many years of close cooperation between WWF and the government of South Africa, the 4th largest marine protected area in the world was established in the Southern Ocean. The 180,000 square kilometre area is home to 5 species of albatross.
WWF also works to rid islands in the Southern Ocean of pests such as rats, rabbits, and mice.
WWF projects that support this work include:
- Protecting Antarctica and the Southern Oceans
- Marine protection in the southwest Pacific
- Longline Fisheries in the Benguela Ecosystem for South Africa, Namibia and Angola
How you can help
- Bycatch is a problem that effects milions of seabirds along with sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, whales, and fish. Buy seafood that is clearly marked as sustainable.
- Dispose of your waste responsibly so that it does not end up in the sea. If you can recycle then do so. If not, ensure that plastics and other waste go in the garbage and not down the drain.
- Spread the word! Click on the button to share this information with others via email or your favourite social networking service.