Albatrosses are the ‘largest’ birds in terms of wingspan. Royal Abatrosses, for instance, may reach a wing span of almost 3.5m, which make them look like feathered sail plaines. They are also the largest members of the tubenose family. Only the smallest albatross species are equalled in size by the Giant Petrels (Macronectes). Albatrosses occur in all oceans, except the northern part of the Atlantic. In ancient times they were also present in that part of the world, but nowadays only an occasional straggler find its way to the North Atlantic. Most of the 24 species are Southern Hemisphere breeders, only three actually breed north of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean.
Albatross taxonomy is subject of discussion for a long time, and has been at times rather chaotic. Based on external characters: plumage patterns, tail shapes, bill structure (size, organization of the plates and coloration) albatrosses were, until recently, divided in 13-14 species in four ‘natural groups’: the Great Albatrosses, the Mollymawks, the North Pacific Albatrosses, grouped in the genus Diomedea and the Sooty Albatrosses Phoebastria. More recently DNA-analyses supports the division in four distinct groups but the were elevated to a generic status and has led to a splitting into 24 species: Great Albatrosses Diomedea (7 species), the Northern (Pacific) Albatrosses Phoebastria (4 species), the southern Mollymawks Thalassarche (11 species) and the Sooty Albatrosses Phoebetria (2 species). Recently this taxonomy is challenged by who proposed to lump some of the ‘species’ again based on their molecular analysis. Since then the discussion flared up and has not ended yet. Some list six species of Great Albatrosses, including two subspecies of Antipodian Albatross.
|wingspan min.:||190||cm||wingspan max.:||210||cm|
|size min.:||89||cm||size max.:||91||cm|
|incubation min.:||64||days||incubation max.:||65||days|
|fledging min.:||140||days||fledging max.:||150||days|
chick, often by regurgitating (vomiting) partially digested food directly into its beak. The young albatross leaves the nest at about five months of age but does not reach full maturity for eight to nine years. Short-tailed albatrosses mate for life. The couples return to the same nest sites year after year.
Video Short-tailed Albatross
copyright: Peter Fraser
Its historical decline was caused by exploitation. Today, the key threats are the instability of soil on its main breeding site (Torishima), the threat of mortality and habitat loss from the active volcano on Torishima, and mortality caused by fisheries. Torishima is also vulnerable to other natural disasters, such as typhoons. Introduced predators are a potential threat at colonies. Environmental contaminants at sea (oil based compounds) may also be a threat