If you are lucky enough to visit the Galapagos between April and December, you can visit the Waved Albatrosses on the small flat island of Espanola. This island at the southern end of the Galapagos chain is the home of the 25,000 and 30,000 breeding adults that make up the world population of Waved Albatrosses. Espanola is one of the oldest islands in the Galapagos, so when the island eventually sinks into the ocean, the birds will need to find a new home.
The Waved Albatross mates for life yet spend part of the year apart. When a couple reunites after months of flight soaring over the open ocean, they perform an elaborate dance that can last for days. The couple will only produce one egg and share the responsibility of rearing the chick. Then the young Albatross will spend five years at sea before returning to find a mate.
The Waved Albatross gets its name from the wavy lines in its feathers and is the largest bird found in the Galapagos. A bird can live up to 40 years. They stand about three feet tall and have a wingspan of around eight feet. It is amazing to an Albatross in flight.
Waved Albatross breed only on Española Island in the Galapagos, and perhaps on Isla de la Plata off Manabí province, Ecuador. On Española, the overall breeding population was considered to have been stable until recently. The Española population was estimated at approximately 12,000 pairs in 1970-1971, 15,600-18,200 pairs in 1994, and at least 34,694 adults in 2001. On Isla de la Plata, there are probably fewer than 10-20 pairs. Analysis of birds caught as intentional and incidental take in inshore fisheries has revealed that a disproportionate number of males are taken, which will result in further decreases to the effective population size given that this species has obligate bi-parental care. Waved Albatross breed annually, arriving at colonies in late March and laying eggs from mid-April to late June. Pairs mate for life and, each year, perform an elaborate mating dance to ensure they have the right partner. Chicks fledge between late December and early January. Breeding adults travel to the Peruvian upwelling region to feed, and, in the non-breeding season, the albatross abandon Española and move mainly east and south-east into the waters of the Ecuadorian and Peruvian continental shelf. Waved Albatross feed on squid, fish, and crustaceans. This species is classified as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small breeding range, is essentially confined to one island, and evidence suggests that it has experienced a substantial recent population decline related primarily to fisheries, especially long-lining.
Would you like to be part of Midge & Snig’s adventure in the Galapagos? Want to have your name (or any name you choose) in my next book? From now until the end of April, everyone who follows my blog, signs up for my newsletter, or leaves a comment, will be entered in a drawing for the chance to name the cruise ship featured in the book.
This post in part of the AtoZ Challenge. Please click on the sunflower AtoZ icon in the sidebar to go to the official list of participating blogs. This year my theme is the Galapagos Islands. I am in the process of writing the first of my Midge & Snig mystery series set in the islands. In my research, I have come across a plethora of interesting facts and images. The vast majority of my research won’t get included in the book, but it’s fun to share what I’ve learned with you all.