Saturday, 2 February 2013

Black Browed Albatross

order : Procellariiformes      Genus & Species : Diomedeidae     Family : Diomedea melanophris

Although it is a seabird, the black-browed albatross spends more time above the sea than in the frosty waters, descending only to feed and rest during its long migrations. The black-browed albatross glides around the Antarctic world with wings designed to take full advantage of air and eddy currents. They found in the sub- Antarctic; breeds on Cape Horn, Staten Islands, Kerguelen, Heard, South Georgia and Campbell Islands and the Falklands. 

Habitat : Spending little time on land or in the icy water, the black-browed albatross soars majestically above the Southern Hemisphere oceans and off the coasts of Australia, South America and Antarctica. Wave crests force wind upward, and the albatross remains in flight for hours on end, riding these air currents. As Antarctic ice begins to break up during longer summer days, the black-browed albatross flies farther south. The warmer water contains millions of tiny shrimp, called krill, a staple of an albatross’s diet. Highly migratory, the albatross flies up to 8,000 miles between mating seasons, seeking relatively moderate climates for breeding. It returns to the same nesting site each year, often sharing islands with penguins and gray-headed albatrosses. 
Food & Hunting : The black-browed albatross is an opportunistic hunter, roaming the seas for days at a time and seizing its prey from the water’s surface. By night it feeds on surface-skimming squid and cuttlefish. During the day, the albatross hunts for fish and its favorite snack: krill, a shrimplike crustacean that swims in schools. It also feeds on the carcasses of dead seals and whales, and glides alongside ships and fishing boats in search of refuse. On occasion it dives underwater for its food.The black-browed albatross tops its meal off with a drink of seawater. Paired salt glands behind the nostrils rid the black-browed albatross of excess salt; ducts from the glands then carry the concentrated saline solution to the nostrils. When the albatross “blows its nose” to expel the liquid, the tubeshaped nostrils project the solution away from the bird’s face, preventing it from hitting the albatross’s eyes. 
Behavior : The black-browed albatross is an avian nomad. A massive bird, this expert glider spends months wandering tremendous distances, sometimes thousands of miles, over the oceans. The albatross sleeps while floating in the water. After resting it takes flight with the wind, racing across the ocean’s surface until it’s clear of the waves. It climbs upward 60’ before curving downward, then zigzagging skyward, repeating this pattern for miles without a single wingbeat. 
Breeding : The black-browed albatross returns to land only to breed and constructs a nest on barren islands near the shore. Made of mud, the nest is a shallow cup on top of a small pedestal of soil and vegetation. Pairs bow their heads and rattle their beaks during mating rituals; they stay together for years and return to the same nest site year after year. Adults share incubation of the single white egg. Covered with brownish down, the hatched nestling matures slowly for four months.To feed their chick, they regurgitate small, partially digested amounts that are easier for the nestling to accept. After fledging, the juvenile leaves the colony. It reappears at the nesting site three years later, but will not breed until 5–10 years of age. 

Nostrils : Tube-shaped nostrils lie on either side of the bill’s base. Salt glands, located internally behind the nostrils, remove excess salt from the seawater that the albatross drinks. 
Wings : Long, tapered wings can be locked straight out by a tendon that runs between the wing bones.This allows gliding without the use of wing muscles. 

Weight : Up to 11 lbs.
Length : Up to 3'
Wingspan : Up to 8'
Sexual Maturity : 5-10 years
Breeding Season : August– October 

The albatross often has great difficulty taking off and looks quite awkward, hence the nicknames “gooney” and “mollymawk,” Dutch for “foolish gull”.

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