Bird of the Month: Albatross

Laysan Albatross in care at our SF Bay-Delta wildlife center, 2015. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

This month, we feature the amazing albatross group of seabirds (Family Diomedeidae). These impressive birds are well-known for their impressive wingspan, lifespan, and for their ability to travel great distances over the oceans.

According to National Geographic, these long-lived birds (50+ years) breed in large colonies on remote islands, which is the only time that they come inland. Albatrosses are found in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, though most species are found in the South. The Laysan Albatross (found in the Northern Hemisphere) is perhaps the most well-known in the United States and are famous for their nesting colony on Midway Atoll (National Wildlife Refuge) near Hawaii.

For us, albatrosses are symbolic of the many challenges that face aquatic birds and oceans. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the main threats to albatrosses are bycatch, invasive species, and the consumption of plastics amongst young albatross. Every year the WWF estimates that thousands of Laysan Albatross chicks on Midway Atoll die from the ingestion of plastics that wash up or are mistakenly brought by parents as food.

At Bird Rescue, our history of working with Laysan Albatross dates back to the 1970s and continues to present times. While these majestic birds are a rarity at our centers, we are proud to serve them when they find their way into our care. To learn more about the work we have done with albatross in the past, see our blog.

While the tale of the albatross can be a sad one, it’s an important one to bring up as we look at the future of our environment and the wildlife that inhabit it. Marine pollution and bycatch are serious problems that challenge our world, and it’s up to us to make a difference and do what we can to make the changes we wish to see. How can we help? Luckily, there are myriad of ways that we can all commit to protecting our oceans and the albatrosses and other wildlife that inhabit them. By reducing plastic use, buying sustainable seafood, and voting for conservation efforts (among other more deliberate changes we can make as a society), we can all do our part to help these majestic birds.

For more information on how to reduce plastic use, see this helpful article from the Oceanic Society. For more information on Albatross or to learn useful tips on how you can help be part of the solution, follow us on Facebook!