Amazing Flight of the Albatross – Part – II

Posted in Wildlife A-Z | March 19, 2010 | Comment Now

Albatrosses thrive in areas that cannot be imagined. Elemental islands are the primary areas. However, there exists no place untouched by humans. As a result, the population has been dwindling steadily. To make sure I got the best view, I chose the most populous albatross colony on the planet. The species are under threat of extinction. To increase their numbers, we need to sign a deal with them. Failing which, we may never again lay sight on so beautiful a species.

Falklands’ Steeple Jason Island is graceful with tussock grass growing to head height. As I walked around the island, I witnessed a living miracle: a group of black-browed albatrosses crowding the ledges and shoreline.

The heads of the birds are decorated with black stripes, just above their eyes. The four-inch bill is characteristic to the albatross. The bills have wonderful hues of translucent pink and rosy blush. Some of the bills have a mustard hue to it. As I look at the birds, I come across the adolescent ones who are probably on land for the first time in search for mates. The younger birds are constantly experimenting with new movements. It is not possible for long-term relationships to develop so quickly. However, many social skills are learnt. They fan their tales and extend their necks laying their bills together. Their cooing is delightful music. Their wings are flawless and plumage is mesmerizing.

The adolescent birds do not seem to know their precise wants. This indecisiveness surrounds an important issue: mating. The choice of mate determines how long the chick survives. Both parents are required to raise a chick; hence, courtship generally lasts for two years. Advanced courtship involves close contact. During this time, they gently preen the head and necks of their partners. This leads to the development of a bond that lasts for a lifetime.

With a single vision, you can see a flock of birds, but never flapping their wings. Wind seems to power this gliding ability. As I watch this beautiful spectacle, some move downwind while others move upwind with the air currents. Their entire movement seems effortless.

The wind that enables the movement of the birds is responsible for hail squalls and gales. In a time span of a few minutes, the blue sky can turn into grey ones generating downpours. The weather is that unpredictable. The gusts blow at a speed of 50 mph. The spray of water refreshes the mind. The birds witness and experience all these with a calm temperament that is not found in humans.

The fishing boats off Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil pose a threat to the albatross population. This talk of extinction obscures their beauty. As evening approaches I get close to a bird. Initiating the courtship it gently bows. I stretch my hand and it reciprocates, nibbling my finger. Imitating the courting birds, I stroke its cheek along the bill.

The margins for living for the albatross are thin. At the maximum, they can lay one egg during the breeding season. They need a year to raise a young one. This requires a lot of effort and adult birds feel depleted of energy. In the process they skip of year of mating.

Part – I

Part – III

Part – IV

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