Wandering Albatross

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Wandering Albatross
Conservation status: Vulnerable
A Wandering Albatross
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Procellariiformes
Family:Diomedeidae
Genus: Diomedea
Species:D. exulans
Binomial name
Diomedea exulans
Linnaeus, 1758

The best known Albatross is the Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans), which occurs in all parts of the Southern Oceans.

It is the largest of all sea-birds. The length of the body is 1.2 m (4 ft), and the weight is from 6 to 11 kg (15 to 25 lb). Its wingspan can reach 3.5 m (11 ft 6 in). Like all of its kind, it is a powerful flier.

In the days of sail it often accompanied a ship for days, not merely following it, but wheeling in wide circles around it without ever being observed to land on the water. It continued its flight, apparently untired, in tempestuous as well as moderate weather.

It has even been said, incorrectly, to sleep on the wing, and Moore alludes to this fanciful "cloud-rocked slumbering" in his Fire Worshippers.

It feeds on squid, small fish and on animal refuse that floats on the sea, eating to such excess at times that it is unable to fly and rests helplessly on the water.

The color of the bird is white, the back being streaked transversely with black or brown bands, and the upperwings are dark.

Sailors used to capture the bird for its long wing-bones, which they manufactured into tobacco-pipe stems.

The albatross lays one egg: it is white, with a few spots, and is about 4 inches long. At breeding time the bird resorts to solitary island groups, like the Crozet Islands and the elevated Tristan da Cunha, where it has its nest, a natural hollow or a circle of earth roughly scraped together on the open ground. When nesting, it is obvious how far their adaptation to flying has gone. Their landings are often better described as semi-controlled crashes.

The early explorers of the great Southern Sea cheered themselves with the companionship of the albatross in their dreary solitudes; and the evil fate of him who shot with his cross-bow the "bird of good omen" is familiar to readers of Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The metaphor of "an albatross around his neck" also comes from the poem and indicates an unwanted burden causing anxiety or hindrance.

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