The EAH group at OSU has, as part of its mission, organized to cover local environmental lectures and events. Last night, I attended my first event in Corvallis at the Grass Roots Bookstore. The visiting author was Hob Osterlund and her book is titled Holy Mōlī and published by OSU Press. She lives in Hawaii, working to protect the albatross and their habitat.
Albatross are beautiful birds. I’ve known that for some time. They mate for life. I knew that too. Of course, like many birds, they face multiple dangers: plastic pollution, fishing hooks, introduced predators; dogs, cats, mongoose, human development, climate change…
But little did I know how little I knew about these amazing creatures. Here are some things I learned.
1. Some species have wingspans that are 10 feet wide. Their wings have 4 folds.
2. They coo gently to their eggs before settling down and will not leave them for anything, including predators and fire.
3. Though pairs mate for life, they only see each other for 2 weeks out of the year. During that time, they are super affectionate and linger when it is time to go.
4. They return often to feed squid oil to their young but only for 15 or 20 minutes. The rest of the time, the chicks are alone and teach themselves how to fly (by jumping off a cliff) and find food at sea.
5. There are 20 plus species of albatross remaining and most in Southern Hemisphere.
6. At the turn of the last century, many thousands were slaughtered for their feathers which were used to make hats for ladies in Europe.
7. After flying off a cliff for the first time, a chick’s feet will not touch ground for 4 years!!!
8. This just discovered – they attract their main food source (squid) to the surface of the ocean by swimming in tight circles and madly kicking their feet to stir up the bioluminescence!!!
9. They can desalinate water with their beaks!!!
10. They also have a speedometer in their beaks which allows them to sort of surf the air currents off of ocean waves and in this way they can fly for hours (maybe days) without flapping their wings at all!!!
Cornell Bird Lab has an albatross cam set up. Not sure if it is still live but there are videos there.
“Conservationists warn that 17 of the 24 albatross species are facing extinction.”