Spreading their wings to longest on record is the wandering albatross with their wingspan of 3.5 m. They are oceanic birds and are known to remain at sea for years at a time, only returning to land for breeding.
Wandering Albatrosses are a familiar sight in the Antarctic, Southern Oceans, in the subtropical waters and in the sub-Antarctic waters, and are the globetrotters of the seabird species. A bird that was tagged by scientists was recorded to have covered a distance of 6,000 kilometers, in a mere twelve days.
This grandest flying machine on earth, also known as snowy albatross, white-winged albatross or goony (Diomedea exulans) is a large seabird from the family Diomedeidae. It is one of the best-known and studied species of bird in the world.
They are predominantly white with their heads, necks, throats, breasts, bellies, and under their wings. The upper parts of their wings are black at the tips and turning lighter and receding as they age. Their bills are generally yellow to pink color, but it can vary. The albatross will glide over the surface of the water to feed, and collects fish, squid and other aquatic foods from the water. These magnificent birds are known to follow fishing trawlers to collect scraps that are thrown overboard, and this is often the reason why they get caught up in the nets.
Breeding season is in November for the Wandering Albatrosses and only takes place every second year. They mate for life and will migrate to sub-Antarctic islands to nest. Nests are constructed on ridges close to the ocean. The female will only lay one egg and the incubation period is approximately eight weeks. After hatching, the chicks will remain in the nest for a period of nine months, while it develops.
While the chicks are still very young, parents will alternate to search for food, to ensure that one parent is at the nest at all times. A parent albatross may fly more than 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) to deliver one meal to its chick. The chick is only fully developed after twelve months. In ideal conditions, Wandering Albatrosses can live to the ripe old age of about 80.
The Wandering Albatross is facing extinction. Scientists have recorded that close to 100,000 birds a year are being killed by tuna and swordfish fishing vessels. If serious action is not taken urgently, this mighty sailor might not be seen in the near future.