Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Waved Albatross

Like the penguins of my last post, Waved Albatross are also restricted to the Galapagos Islands. Most breed on Española Island, which is where Erika and I took this photograph in the mid-1970s. Birds sighted on one other Galapagos island and Isla de la Plata, much closer to the mainland of Ecuador, may have been breeding. When not nesting, these albatross are encountered off the coasts of western South America (Wikipidia).

Birds of the World—Alive lists the Waved Albatross as “Critically Endangered.” Despite breeding in a national park, populations have declined since 2001. These birds scavenge dead prey, mainly squid and large fish. Over-fishing and El Niño fluctuations reduce prey populations. Local people also harvest albatross for feathers and/or food. Recently introduced Southern House Mosquitos, which are a vector for avian malaria, are also a threat.

We were impressed that the Waved Albatross, which has “obligate bi-parental care,” builds no nest. Eggs are laid in depressions on the ground. Once researchers were dismayed that they could find none of the eggs they had previously marked. They discovered that the albatrosses pick up their eggs with their feet and breast feathers and may move the eggs up to 30 feet a day!

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