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Albatrosses are large flying birds that spend most of their life on the sea, but they are just as efficient when flying because of their spectacular wingspans.
See the fact file below for more information on the albatrosses or alternatively, you can download our 24-page Albatross worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Albatross belongs to the family of Diomedeidae.
- There are 22 recognized species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- The species are divided into 4 genera: Diomedea (Great albatrosses), Thalassarche (Mollymawks), Phoebastria (North Pacific albatrosses), and Phoebetria (Sooty albatrosses).
- Albatrosses are seabirds related to Petrels, such as storm petrels and diving petrels.
- The earliest albatross fossils date back to 32 million years ago.
- The albatross is also referred to as the Wandering Albatross, Snowy Albatross, and White-winged Albatross.
- Albatrosses have large softball-like heads.
- Its length reaches up to 135 centimeters.
- It weighs 6 to 12 kilograms.
- Its usual color is white.
- It has gray and black wings.
- They have 10-centimeter long bills.
- Its feathers are soft that keep them warm in cold temperatures.
- Muscles account for a lower percentage of their body weight because they rely on their wings heavily.
- An albatross bill is large, strong, hooked, and sharp-edged.
- Along the sides of the bill are two “tubes” or long nostrils that allow albatrosses to measure the exact airspeed in flight.
- Their feet do not have hind toes.
- Their legs are strong, making it easier and better to walk on land.
- Albatrosses have morphologically adapted wings.
- Their large wingspans can reach up to 6.5 to 11 feet.
- They have the largest wingspan among any bird species.
- Albatross uses their massive wingspan to travel long distances without using their muscles.
- They perform specialised gliding techniques in order to minimize the use of muscles and energy.
- They can glide for hours without resting or flapping their wings.
- An albatross is known to fly 80,000 kilometers without touching land. Its long and narrow wingspans are used to ride the ocean winds.
- Adult plumage is usually a variation of dark upper-wings with white undersides at the back. It takes several years to get their adult plumage.
- They combine soaring techniques such as dynamic soaring and slope soaring depending on location, weather, and wind.
- Dynamic soaring is rising into the wind and descending downwind, gaining energy from vertical wind gradient.
- Slope soaring uses rising air on the windward side of large waves.
- They fly a clockwise route in the Southern Hemisphere flying north
- When going south, they fly counterclockwise.
- Before taking off, an albatross needs a run up on land to allow enough air to move under the wings to provide lift.
- They are called the ‘great gliders’ for a reason.
BEHAVIOR AND DIET
- Dietary habits vary across different species of albatrosses, but as seabirds they rely almost entirely on seafood.
- Their diet usually consists of: squids, octopus, and other cephalopods.
- They also eat fish, krill, crabs, shrimps, lobsters, and other crustaceans.
- During season when it is hard to find food, they feed on carrion and zooplanktons.
- Albatross dive into the water and can reach five meters deep to get their food.
- They snap food that comes up to the surface of the sea.
- They can spend months over the open sea without approaching land by using wind and air current to stay up in the air with minimal effort.
- Tiger sharks are its top predators. Tiger sharks are responsible for taking out 10% of albatross chicks.
COURTING, NESTING, AND BREEDING
- Albatrosses mate for life.
- Potential mates spend their youth getting to know each other.
- Courting is not taken lightly and will usually last two years.
- Female albatrosses find a suitable and reliable partner that will provide security and food when she guards the eggs for months.
- During courting, male albatrosses try to win the attention of their potential mates by doing a mating dance with their beaks up and wings outstretched.
- Courting pairs bow, rise, and gaze on their tip toes, beak to beak.
- The pair spends time building a nest together before they do the breeding process.
- Most female albatrosses lay a single egg during the breeding season and it takes a lot of energy and attention to lay only one.
- Hatching eggs take 85 days longer than any other bird species.
- An albatross lays eggs every 2 years.
- A pair of albatross takes turns guarding their eggs and sourcing food.
- An egg cannot be left alone and should be kept warm because if gets cold, the embryo will die.
- When there is a shortage of food, the chicks are sacrificed so that the parents can survive.
- Chicks spend four or five months staying in their nests while the parents search food.
- Albatross chicks attain sexual maturity at 5 years old and breed at age 7 to 10 years old.
- They can live up to 60 years.
LOCATION AND DISTRIBUTION
- Most species are found in the Southern Hemisphere: Antarctica, Australia, South Africa, and South America.
- Three albatross species (Short-tailed albatross, Black-footed albatross and Laysan Albatross) are found in the North Pacific: Hawaii, Japan, California, and Alaska.
- Waved albatross are the only species that breeds in the Galapagos Islands and feeds in the South American coast.
MORE INTERESTING FACTS
- These birds are also called mollyhawks, a dutch word that means ‘foolish gull’ because of their tameness on land.
- There is a threat to the albatross species because of fish baits used with longline fishing where they get entangled on the hook and drown eventually.
- Rats prey on the eggs and they destroy Albatrosses’ nests. Albatross chicks choke on human waste.
- They die because they mistakenly feed on plastics and other human waste.
- The Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II’s oldest son Charles, was fond of the bird gliders and became their spokesperson.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about albatross across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Albatross worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the albatrosses which are large flying birds that spend most of their life on the sea, but they are just as efficient when flying because of their spectacular wingspans.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Albatross Facts
- About The Albatross
- All Over The World
- The Four Genera
- The Seafood Diet
- From Courting To Nesting
- I Sea A Bird
- I Believe I Can Fly
- Image Analysis
- Trivia Review
- Albatross Logo
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Link will appear as Albatross Facts & Worksheets: http://www.grabillautomotive.com - KidsKonnect, March 26, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.