Friday, January 7, 2011

Black-footed Albatross

It is hard to believe that 9/11 was ten years ago and that this photo was taken on 8/13/2001, only a month before the world changed.  I attended the American Ornithologists' Union's annual meeting in Seattle.  One advantage to a congress of birders is that their pre-meeting field trips are often fruitful.  I signed up for a pelagic trip out of Westport, Washington.  They took us 60 miles out into the Pacific Ocean.  You might think that no birds would inhabit the open ocean, but it was a bird bonanza.  I added a half-dozen species of my life-list. Included among the new species were many Black-footed Albatross. 

Tube-nosed seabirds, an order that includes the albatrosses, shearwaters, fulmar, and various petrels, are odd among birds in that they have tubular nostrils and an extraordinary sense of smell.  They use this ability to smell to find both their prey and also their breeding grounds.  Their sense of smell is so acute that our guides had but to toss a cup full of cod-liver oil into the sea before our small boat was surrounded by seabirds.

The Black-footed Albatross breeds on the Hawaiian Islands and ranges across the North Pacific. The species feeds on squid and flying fish eggs.  It also follows ships, picking up whatever the fishermen throw away.  Unfortunately, it also eats plastic trash floating on the sea.  Fishing nets and longlines also contribute to this albatross' decline (Awkerman et al. 2008).

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