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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote®: The Power Of Albatross Partnerships

Air Date: Week of

A Waved Albatross pair (Photo: Wildlife Travel, CC)

Raising a chick is no small feat for Albatrosses and both parents play a vital role. BirdNote®’s Wenfei Tong describes the strong and unique bonds that help albatrosses raise their young.


BASCOMB: Most bird species are diligent parents, sitting on their precious eggs through weeks of incubation despite rain and wind. And if there were a contest for the most doting of bird parents the albatross might just be the winner. BirdNote’s Wenfei Tong has more.

The Power of Albatross Partnerships

TONG: For most albatross species, raising a chick is a real challenge. Waved Albatrosses produce such slow-growing, needy offspring that females lay only a single egg every two years. And both parents need to share the load until youngsters can hunt on their own.

[Waved Albatross https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/203698321#_ga=2.41689515.888524604.16… 0:16-:19]

Albatrosses tend to pair for life, and it can take a while to find the right partner — so some species don’t start breeding until they are 10 years old, with some individuals even waiting until they are 20. Reunited pairs go through an elaborate, synchronized ritual of braying, wing spreading, and bill tapping to reaffirm their bonds before getting down to the business of breeding.

[Wandering Albatross https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/116338191#_ga=2.265744463.1576298121… 3:14-3:18]

In Hawaii, biologists were puzzled to find that some Laysan Albatross pairs had not one, but two eggs. Then they found that some of the birds going so faithfully through the ritualized series of courtship displays were both female.

Albatrosses tend to mate for life and can live more than 50 years. (Photo: Sidney Bragg, CC)

[Laysan Albatrosses https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/959#_ga=2.267683079.888524604.1609180… :24-:31]

Although the eggs were fertilized by males that had since died or were from other pairs, the females were bonded to each other. Many of these female couples remain together for years. They can’t successfully raise both offspring, but their combined efforts are necessary to raise one chick.

[Juvenile Laysan Albatross https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/32669#_ga=2.101412488.888524604.16091… :06-:12]

Written by Wenfei Tong
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Production Manager: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Waved Albatross ML203698321 S. Olmstead, Laysan Albatross ML959 E. Booth, Laysan Juvenile ML 32669 C. Robbins
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2021 BirdNote March 2021 Narrator: Wenfei Tong

ID# albatross-03-2021-03-26 albatross-03


BASCOMB: For pictures soar on over to the Living on Earth website, LOE dot org.



Find this story and many more on the BirdNote® website

Learn more about the Waved Albatross

Learn more about the Laysan Albatross


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