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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Amaze-wing Facts About The Albatross For Kids

Indulge yourself in these amazing albatross facts!

Is that Maleficent soaring high in the sky? No, that’s an albatross, and hey, they do not mean bad luck!

Albatrosses are large sea birds. They can be found mainly in the North Pacific and the Southern Ocean. These white birds are one of the largest among the flying birds. But what’s more fascinating is that these birds have the largest wingspan, when compared to all other surviving birds.

Very little energy is used as these seabirds soar high over the ocean, making them strong enough fliers to cover hundreds of miles. Apart from the breeding phrase, this large bird is soaring in the skies almost all the while and does not touch the land! It is said that albatrosses travel many thousands of miles in the sky every year!

The oldest wild bird known is a Laysan albatross (a type of North Pacific albatross) named Wisdom!

Albatrosses are also comically known as ‘the gooney bird’, in reference to the way it descends on the land. Another name of this bird is 'mollymawk'.

If you like this article about the magnificent albatross, then check out grouse and pheasants!

Albatross Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Albatross?

Albatross species are a type of bird.

What class of animal does an Albatross belong to?

These species are birds that come under the class of Aves.

How many Albatrosses are there in the world?

There are about 22 subspecies of albatrosses, and considering all their numbers together, these birds are present in abundance. However, individual subspecies are endangered and are listed on the IUCN list for their decreasing population.

Where does an Albatross live?

You will find these seabirds mainly flying over the seas and oceans. However, they settle down for breeding in far away islands which are usually miles away from any human population.

What is an Albatross's habitat?

Albatrosses are often found in the Southern Hemisphere, mainly around Australia, South America, South Africa, and Antarctica. They are usually found flying over the oceans and seas. Only at the beginning of the mating season, the albatross's habitat switches to land, where these birds breed on isolated islands. They find a little difficulty traveling over places where the flow of wind is not fast enough.

Who do Albatrosses live with?

Albatrosses are colonial birds, and usually prefer living in groups. A group of these seabirds is called a flock.

How long does an Albatross live?

The albatross lifespan extends up to 50 human years.

How do they reproduce?

This species prefers moving to remote areas and islands for breeding. They find a partner and bond in pairs with them for a lifetime. The birds enchant and charm their partner with special dances. Since this bond is to be carried on for many years, they are careful in finding the right partner for themselves.  These pairs remain constant until the end of their lives unless the female faces issues in conceiving.

Breeding season may go on for more than a year! This timeline includes the time from when the female lays her egg in the nest, until the time the chicks are ready to fly.

In every session of breeding, the female albatross lays only a single egg. The egg is laid in a large nest carefully made in high altitudes with feathers, grass, shrubs, and even soil. These eggs are laid every alternate year. After a few months, the albatross chicks hatch from their eggs. The parent birds take turns in looking after their little chicks and feeding them. The chick takes about up to 10 months to develop wings, complete fledging, be independent, and have a safe flight.

The breeding pairs return back to the nests every alternate year.

What is their conservation status?

About 22 subspecies of this bird have been identified by the IUCN, and all of these are on different spectrums of threat. Three of these species have been listed as Critically Endangered, five have been stated as Endangered, seven are said to be Nearly Threatened, and the remaining seven species are said to be Vulnerable.

Albatross Fun Facts

What do Albatrosses look like?

The albatross has the largest wingspan of all birds currently on Earth.

The albatross has a big strong body. These birds come in shades of black, white, and gray and have sharp, fierce eyes. They have long hooked beaks which are usually yellow or orange in color. Their beaks contain plates as well as tubes along their sides, which help manage the airspeed as they fly.

Upon first seeing this glorious bird, the first thing that strikes one is its large wingspan, which stretches to almost 6.5-12 ft from one tip to the other! This sheer size gives these birds the title of being one of the largest bird species surviving in the world.

As these birds maintain a constant flight and have few instances of flapping their wings, they are arched as well as stiff. This species glides under the sun over the water bodies for long periods of time without making many movements. Thus, they do not spend much energy while flying, and in fact, can glide better in the presence of a good breeze. Albatrosses also have a special organ that excretes extra salts in their body.

How cute are they?

We would not really consider these giant birds cute!

How do they communicate?

This species communicates with each other by touching their beaks, clapping their bills, trumpeting, croaking loudly, and pointing with their beaks towards the sky.

How big is an Albatross?

They are around 96-120in (100-130cm) long, though the females are slightly smaller than the males.

How fast can an Albatross fly?

Albatrosses can attain speeds of up to 50 mph (80.47 kph)!

How much does an Albatross weigh?

An albatross weighs up to 22 lb (10 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There is no specific name for the male and female birds of the albatross species.

What would you call a baby Albatross?

Baby albatrosses are called chicks.

What do they eat?

This species hunt for prey using their senses - they are super sensitive to odor and can hunt down for food by smell.

Squid, fish, krill, zooplankton, and small crustaceans are on the diet list of the Albatross. Their prey is hunted either by the birds diving in the water, or scavenging or even by grabbing food close to the surface of the water.  They also do not mind following ships and fishing boats, and then swoop down to pick the meat from the deck. Once the prey is spotted from the air, it doesn’t waste a moment and dives down and grabs in its mouth.

Are they dangerous?

We would not classify the albatross as dangerous, and they are popular among ecotourists for birdwatching activities.

Would they make a good pet?

We do not think the albatross would make a good pet, keeping in mind their large size.

Did you know...

The Arabic term ‘Al Gattas’ or ‘Al Qadus’ can be credited as the origin of the word ‘albatross’, which translates to ‘the diver’. This Arabic name was adopted by the Portuguese as ‘Alcatraz’, which finally became ‘albatross’ in English.

Some of the well-known subspecies of albatrosses include the wandering albatross, the black-browed albatross, the royal albatross, the black-footed albatross as well as the Laysan albatrosses.

Wisdom, the Laysan albatross, was said to have hatched back in the year 1951! Her most recent chick hatched in February 2021.

The scientific name of this bird, Diomedeidae, actually comes all the way from Greece! It is said that there was once a Greek hero who went by the name Diomedes. Diomedes was one of the greatest warriors, well remembered for his contribution to the Trojan War. It is said that when Diomedes died, albatrosses descended on the ground and sang in honor of him. The order name 'Procellariiformes' is derived from 'procella'. Procella is a Latin term which translates to ‘a storm’, or ‘a violent gale’.

The number of albatrosses has been declining, unfortunately. Smaller animals such as cats and rats attack the laid eggs and little chicks. Large water fish such as sharks might also grab hold of these fish when they fly down for prey. Pollution has also been another big problem. Overfishing has caused a decline in the availability of food. Practices such as longline fishing involve aquatic birds being attracted to the bait, which then gets hooked on the fish lines and drown.

The Albatross' survival techniques

The albatross adaptions include the structure of their bodies helping them stay at ease during long flights. Each shoulder has a tendon which locks their wings when they are extended to the maximum extent.

These birds also prefer nesting their chicks in islands or places which have less interference from other creatures. This would help in the safety of the chick and less competition for food and other resources.

These birds also possess the ability to dive up to a meter deep into the seas to pluck off their food. However, they are aware of the underwater predators waiting for them and usually choose to grab fish from the surface.

The symbolism of the Albatross

As per the myth of the sea, the gooney bird possesses the soul of a sailor who died in the sea. Thus, some consider the arrival of an albatross as bad luck, while some consider it a form of guidance. This myth was later popularized by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, penned in the year 1798. The poem speaks about the protagonist shooting down an albatross  Following this, the ship faces a series of hardships and unfortunate events while sailing the seas. The sailors on board then force the protagonist to carry the body of the albatross around its neck to repent his actions. This poem thus brings the phrase ‘albatross around the neck’ into existence.

The Māori people of New Zealand connect to nature with the help of albatrosses. They use the bones of the wings of these birds to make flutes. Laysan albatrosses in the myths of Hawaii are considered as 'aumakuas'. The Aumakua is a family God who takes physical forms in the form of birds, marine animals, plants, or even rocks. The myths of Japan call the short-tailed albatrosses 'ahodori', or the 'fool bird', as they are easily fallen into prey.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including red kites and pileated woodpeckers.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our albatross coloring pages.

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