how long do albatross birds fly

After three years, the black-footed albatrosses return to the colony and spend two years constructing nests, dancing, and interacting with potential mates. This behavior most likely developed to maximize trust between the birds because raising an albatross chick requires a significant energy investment from both, and a protracted courtship period assures both birds that the other is committed. After roughly seven years, they will begin to reproduce, mating every two years.

From time to time, the birds pair up, usually with another female Laysan albatross. Researchers have successfully exchanged unfertilized eggs from female-female pairs with fertile eggs translocated from pairs nesting on military airfields and in other unsafe nesting areas, which has aided conservation efforts in the Hawaiian Islands. The female-female pairs then hatch and raise the foster chicks.

Natural disasters also cause heavy losses. Storm surges in 1985 destroyed chicks on two royal albatross breeding islands in the Chathams and, more concerningly, stripped much of the island’s meager soil and vegetation. The albatrosses’ breeding success rate decreased from 50% to 3% in subsequent years due to a lack of nesting material; the birds laid their eggs on bare rock, and the majority of the eggs broke during incubation.

Even though Chatham albatrosses are known to frequent the same fishing grounds as deep-sea trawlers, Scofield’s tracking of these birds has not yielded enough data to compare the costs of adult deaths from fishing vessels versus the benefits of chick survival. “We’re not sure how much we’re supporting them,” remarks Scofield.

Scofield was fairly confident he could get his GPS devices back on the Pyramid. There was little chance of his birds becoming becalmed in the windy latitudes they inhabit, meridians known to mariners as the Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties. Chatham albatrosses typically go on relatively short feeding forays, lasting only a few days. What worried Scofield more was that the Chatham Rise, which is the area next to the Chatham Islands, is one of the richest commercial fishing grounds in New Zealand, rich in deep-water species like orange roughy. Like humans, who frequent their favorite stores, albatrosses also know where fish are found and frequent the most productive fishing areas.

In the South Island of New Zealand, the endangered northern royal albatross colony at Taiaroa Head, close to Dunedin, is one example of an openly subsidized albatross population. One of the few locations in the world where a visitor can get up close and personal with great albatrosses is Taiaroa Head. With just 140 members, the colony is small, and the breeding program is meticulously run—”lovingly” would not be a strong enough word.

Because heat exhaustion has killed adult birds at Taiaroa, rangers turn on sprinklers on hot, still days. When I visited, the observatory’s tinted windows were splattered with raindrops, but there was no risk of the birds becoming overheated. I selected a play albatross, a life-sized model of an adult chick. It weighed a surprising twenty pounds, just like the real thing. Most albatross species’ fledglings weigh 50% more than their adults. When they are first learning to feed themselves, they need the extra fat to get them by.

FAQ

Do albatross sleep while flying?

As albatrosses usually do not feed at night when on the surface [74–76], they might use this time to sleep. As long as rough seas do not interfere with sleep, albatrosses may therefore have little need for sleep in flight.

Why do albatross fly for 5 years?

Albatrosses are masters of soaring flight, able to glide over vast tracts of ocean without flapping their wings. So fully have they adapted to their oceanic existence that they spend the first six or more years of their long lives (which last upwards of 50 years) without ever touching land.

How long can birds fly without stopping?

A bird might be able to stay aloft 6 hours at 15 mph (maximum endurance, covering 90 miles) or 5 hours at 20 mph (maximum range, covering 100 miles). Birds can also choose to maximize speed, as when being chased by a predator or racing to defend a territory. Or they can choose some compromise between speed and range.

Why can the wandering albatross stay up in the air for a long time?

Wandering albatrosses lack sufficient musculature to sustain continuous flapping flight for long periods of time; however they have a shoulder lock that mechanically holds their wings outstretched so that little energy is expended while soaring, according to the paper.