Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata)


Class: Aves
Order: Procellariiformes
Family:    Diomedeidae
Size:    Length: 2 to 3 feet (61 to 91 cm) Wingspan: 7 to 8 feet (2.1 to 2.5 m)
Weight: 7 to 11 pounds (3 to 5 kg)
Diet: Squid, fish and crustaceans
Distribution: Galapagos Islands and surrounding waters
Young:  1 chick per year
Animal Predators:  Unknown
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Up to 45 years



·     Although the waved albatross is the largest Galapagos bird, it is one of the smallest of the 13 albatross species.  

·     Five of the 13 species of albatross are considered “threatened with extinction.”

·     Waved albatrosses typically fly 25 million miles (40 million km) during their lifetime. 



Waved albatrosses have a long, bright yellow bill, a white head and neck, and brown to grey feathers on the body. Their feet and legs are bluish grey. The undersides of their wings are white. They have large, dark eyes. 



Waved albatrosses are found on only one of the Galapagos Islands—Española, which is also known as Hood Island. There is only one other place in the world where these albatrosses gather, and that is nearby Isla de la Plata, off the coast of Ecuador, where a small colony has recently established itself. Waved albatrosses spend part of the year at sea, from late December to late March, along the Humboldt current. Males are the first to arrive at the breeding grounds each spring


Feeding Habits

Waved albatrosses feed on squid, fish and crustaceans. They are able to drink salt water because they filter the salt out through a gland located in their eyes. The salt is then expelled through the nostrils. 



Once a female finds the right partner, they stay together for life, but first they go through an elaborate courtship that can last up to five days. They face each other, bobbing their heads wing and touching or slapping their bills together. They take turns leaning back, opening their bills, then bow to the ground, closing their bills again with a snap. They walk around in a circle, one following the other, swaying their heads while making neighing nasal sounds. These courtship rituals are not just done when the couple first decides to form a bonding relationship, but is repeated every year before they breed. Waved albatrosses always return to the same location. The female lays one large, white egg in April on the ground, rather than in a nest. The parents share the incubation duties for two months, and actually roll the egg from place to place until it hatches in June. Chicks are covered with soft, curly, brown feathers. One parent stays by the chick during its first few weeks to guard it, while the other parent goes out for food to bring back. When they are a little bit older, chicks form nursery groups so they can play and socialize while their parents search for food. The adults hold the food in their stomach without digesting it, then regurgitate it as an oily liquid into the chicks mouth. The chick swells and looks over-inflated, because its parents may force up to four pounds (2 kg) of liquid into it at one feeding. The chick has difficulty moving until the food is digested. The parents feed it that much at a time because they have to fly long distances to find food, and may not be able to feed the chick again for several days. The chick reaches full adult size by December and heads out with its parents for the western Pacific. Although the parents return to Española each April, the chick will not return until it is five to six years of age, when it will find a lifetime partner of its own. 



Waved albatrosses use the steep cliffs of Española as runways to take off for their flights to obtain food. They are graceful and agile fliers and gliders, and with their large wings, can soar for hours without flapping. 



Because waved albatrosses have such a small breeding range, and because of the risk of chance events, they qualify as Vulnerable by the IUCN.