Albatrosses are large seabirds, normally found far out in the ocean. they use their very long wings to glide just above the waves, occasionally catching fish and squid. Albatrosses make their nests in large colonies on remote islands. they mate for life.
Types of albatross
Scientists disagree about how many species of albatross exist; between thirteen and twenty-four have been proposed. however, some species have become well known, including the wandering albatross, sometimes said to have the longest wingspan of any bird - up to twelve feet.
Six species of albatross are known in American waters:
- Short-tailed albatross - breeds off Japan; now down to about 1,000 individuals. it can be seen off the Pacific coast
- Shy albatross - can be seen from Washington to California.
- Laysan albatross - breeds in Hawaii, but also seen off the western mainland.
- Black-footed albatross - also breeds in Hawaii, but can be seen every year off the western mainland.
- Yellow-nosed albatross - a rare visitor to the Atlantic and Gulf coast, probably from nesting sites in Tristan da Cunha island.
- Black-browed albatross - a very rare visitor to American waters, but has been seen in European waters several times.
Albatrosses in legend
The albatross is well known for its role in superstition. Albatrosses often follow ships, and were believed to be the souls of drowned sailors. It was considered to be bad luck to kill one. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the mariner of the title tells a tale of the grim consequences of killing one of the birds.
In 1959 the crew of the ship Calpean Star, docked at Liverpool, refused to continue their voyage after they blamed on-board accidents on an albatross in the cargo, which was being taken to a zoo.