Monthly Archives: July 2011

Albatross (Diomedeidae)

Albatross (Diomedeidae)

Wide-winged and long-lived, albatrosses are rarely seen on land, preferring to stay out on the ocean except to mate and raise their young.

Fast Facts

Type                       : Bird

Diet                        : Carnivore

Average life span in the wild:Up to 50 years

Size                        : Wingspan, 6.5 to 11 ft (2 to 3.4 m)

Weight                   : Up to 22 lbs (10 kg)

Group name         : Flock

Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:

An albatross aloft can be a spectacular site. These feathered giants have the longest wingspan of any bird—up to 11 feet (3.4 meters)! The wandering albatross is the biggest of some two dozen different species. Albatrosses use their formidable wingspans to ride the ocean winds and sometimes to glide for hours without rest or even a flap of their wings. They also float on the sea’s surface, though the position makes them vulnerable to aquatic predators. Albatrosses drink salt water, as do some other sea birds.

These long-lived birds have reached a documented 50 years of age. They are rarely seen on land and gather only to breed, at which time they form large colonies on remote islands. Mating pairs produce a single egg and take turns caring for it. Young albatrosses may fly within three to ten months, depending on the species, but then leave the land behind for some five to ten years until they themselves reach sexual maturity. Some species appear to mate for life.

Albatrosses feed primarily on squid or schooling fish, but are familiar to mariners because they sometimes follow ships in hopes of dining on handouts or garbage. Albatrosses have a special place in maritime lore and superstition, most memorably evoked in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Some albatross species were heavily hunted for feathers that were used as down and in the manufacture of women’s hats. The Laysan albatross was important to the indigenous hunters of the northern seas. Excavations of Aleut and Eskimo settlements reveal many albatross bones and suggest that the birds were an important part of human diet in the region.

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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Birds


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Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)

Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)


Wings spread, this Adélie penguin waddles through an Antarctic colony. Its black tail gives it a tuxedo-like appearance.


Fast Facts

Type                                          : Bird

Diet                                            : Carnivore

Average life span in the wild     : Up to 20 years

Siz                                             : 27.5 in (70 cm)

Weight                               : 8.5 to 12 lbs (4 to 5.5 kg)

Group name                      : Colony

Did you know?

Adult Adélie penguins have been observed stealing rocks from their neighbors’ nests.

Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man

Adélie penguins live on the Antarctic continent and on many small, surrounding coastal islands. They spend the winter offshore in the seas surrounding the Antarctic pack ice.

Adélies feed on tiny aquatic creatures, such as shrimp-like krill, but also eat fish and squid. They have been known to dive as deep as 575 feet (175 meters) in search of such quarry, though they usually hunt in far shallower waters less than half that depth.

Like other penguins, Adélies are sleek and efficient swimmers. They may travel 185 miles round-trip (about 300 kilometers) to procure a meal.

During the spring breeding season (in October), they take to the rocky Antarctic coastline where they live in large communities called colonies. These groups can include thousands of birds.

Once on land, Adélies build nests and line them with small stones. Though they move with the famed “penguin waddle” they are capable walkers who can cover long overland distances. In early spring, before the vast sheets of ice break up, they may have to walk 31 miles (50 kilometers) from their onshore nests to reach open water.

Male Adélie penguins help their mates rear the young and, without close inspection, the two sexes are nearly indistinguishable. They take turns sitting on a pair of eggs to keep them warm and safe from predators. When food is short, only one of the two chicks may survive. After about three weeks, parents are able to leave the chicks alone, though the offspring gather in groups for safety. Young penguins begin to swim on their own in about nine weeks.

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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Birds


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