The waved albatross, also known as the Galapagos albatross, is the largest bird in the Galapagos Islands, with a wingspan of up to 8.2 feet.
Outside of the breeding season, waved albatrosses spend much of their time off the coast of Peru and Ecuador, but can also be seen flying near the Galapagos Islands. During the breeding season, however, most waved albatrosses return to Española Island the extreme southeast of the archipelago. They lay their eggs between April and June, which they then incubate for two months. The offspring are typically ready to leave the colony by January the following year.
Before the breeding season, the monogamous waved albatross engages in a complex courtship ritual in an attempt to woo a mate. The courtship dance includes a range of actions, including bill circling, head nodding, bill clacking, a coquettish waddle and strange mooing sounds.
Once their chicks have hatched, the parents will go foraging for food while their young are cared for in nursery groups back on Española. The parents often fly more than 60 miles from the nest before returning to feed their offspring with an oily regurgitated liquid.
In the air, few birds can match the gliding abilities of the waved albatross. With their large wings fully extended and locked in place, they can fly for hours with barely any effort, using dynamic soaring to move between air masses of different velocities. This allows for near continuous gliding, during which the bird’s heart rate is almost the same as it is when resting.
Sadly, the waved albatross is under threat. Despite having protected status on the Galapagos, they are nonetheless at risk due to human activities, particularly fishing. Long-line fishing is incredibly damaging, as the albatrosses are attracted by the baited hooks and once they are hooked they almost always drown. The population has declined in recent years despite conservation efforts, and in 2007 the status of the waved albatross was changed from vulnerable to critically endangered.
Read more about the Waved Albatross at Galapagos Conservation Trust.
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