October 21, 2011 § 2 Comments
One of the largest of flying birds, albatrosses have been described as “the most legendary of all birds”. The Albatross has been the subject of legends and stories for hundreds of years going back to the day of great sailing ships where sailors believed that albatross were the spirits of sailors lost at sea to being the central emblem to the poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.
The Galapagos Albatross or the Waved Albatross is the only member of the Albatross family that lives in the topics. The Galapagos Albatross is considered endemic to the Island of Española though in recent years small groups have been identified on both on the island of Genovesa and 5 to 6 pairs on Isla de la Plata on the coast of Ecuador. The Albatross arrive on Española each April where they mate, nest and remain through December.
Albatross come back to find the same mate every year until one or the other dies. The mating ritual begins with the couple engaging in a series of beak jousting moves where they circle each other raise and lower and then clack together. They then built a nest typically on the rocky surface. The couple will produce 1 egg per year which is raised in a nursery with other chicks while the parents head out to sea to feed. In December when the chicks are big enough to survive on their own entire colony will head out to sea where they live over the ocean along the coasts of Ecuador and Peru.
Visiting Española you can see the chicks as well as the adults with their giant 6 foot wing span as the fling themselves off the cliff to fish in an area appropriately nicknamed the Albatross Airport.
Andres Baquero, executive director of Equilibrio Azul Foundation, says that a Waved Albatross population is classified as Critically Endangered. The number one threat to the Albatross population is fisherman as the birds confuse the prey on hooks and get caught by fisherman. In a study conducted by the Foundation in Santa Elena, 30% of respondents had seen fishermen albatross their hooks.
“Fishermen are not interested in capturing seabirds in the country, that way no problem,” emphasized Baquero. The sixth meeting of Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) took place in Guayaquil at the end of August and is looking into new ways to help preserve these majestic birds.