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Diomedea Albatrus

Short-tailed Albatross


Why Albatrus?
This bird was chosen as the symbol for this site for these reasons:

  • In flight, where it spends the majority of its life, it has a most graceful, beautiful and regal motion.  An albatrus in flight can be so perfectly attuned to wind conditions that it may not flap its wings for hours, or even for days, as it can sleep while flying. It takes advantage of the air currents just above the ocean's waves to soar in perpetual graceful motion.  To me it depicts the Christian in prayer that, unlike a flapping pigeon, is perfectly attuned to the presence of The Spirit of God and moves with Him in a most secure, tranquil and peaceful way.

  • It is a faithful creature for it is monogamous till death.  As we are called to be faithful to God and to our spouses.

  • Yet, albatrus, is  not perfect for in land, it is very awkward and often has difficulty taking off and landing, this depict the frailty of humankind.

  • Like Christian, in the Post-Christianity era, we would be an "endangered" species if it were not for our blessed Lord Jesus Christ that will complete what He has started in us, and His church will not be defeated.


Brief Info on Albatrus

Description and Range
The short-tailed albatross is a very large seabird with narrow, seven-foot-long wings adapted for soaring low over the ocean. Young birds are chocolate brown, gradually turning white as they grow older. Adult short-tailed albatrosses have an entirely white back, white or pale yellow head and back of neck, pink bills, yellow feet, and black and white wings, and weigh as much as 25 pounds (11 kilograms). Their large pink bill is hooked at the end with a blue tip.  In some cases their wingspan can reach up to 13 feet (three meters) .

Historically, the short-tailed albatross bred on a number of Japanese islands, and its range extended to most of the north Pacific Ocean. In the 19th century, the short-tailed albatross was common in the north Pacific. However, its numbers were reduced from more than a million birds to as few as 40 or 50 in 1940. Since that time, a slow recovery has brought the number of short-tailed albatross to more than 200. All of the remaining birds breed on just one small island in Japan. The remote island, Toroshima, is dominated by an active volcano, and the birds occupy a hiding place that is difficult for humans to access.

People no longer live on Toroshima because it is an active volcano. In 1902, an eruption killed all 125 of the island's human occupants. Now the world's only short-tailed albatross colony nests on the ashen slopes where the grass has become re-established. If the volcano should erupt again during breeding season, the majority of the population could be wiped out. Only juveniles at sea would survive. Formerly, when there were short-tailed albatross colonies in several places, such a natural event would not have threatened the species. Reduction of the short-tailed albatross range due to overexploitation by humans has left them vulnerable to extinction by natural factors.

Natural History
Albatross live from forty to sixty years. They can stay out at sea for as long as five years before returning to the same island on which they were born. They have elaborate courtship dances, and once mated they tend to remain faithful to their mate returning to the same nest sites in the breeding colony for many years. Single eggs are laid in October or November and incubated for 65 days. After five months in the nest, chicks leave to wander across the North Pacific. They begin breeding when 6 to 9 years old. Adults also spend the summer non-breeding season at sea, feeding on squid, fish, or other organisms. Most summer sightings of the "coastal albatross," as short-tails were known historically, are in the Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea, and Gulf of Alaska. In adulthood they rendezvous each year with their partner at the same nest site. Nesting time is the only time they spend on land, and each year the pair stays just long enough to hatch and raise a single chick.

On land, albatross are very awkward and often have difficulty taking off and landing. Japanese call them "Ahodori", which means "fool bird", because they were known to remain at their nest sites as humans walked through their breeding grounds, killing bird after bird.

Although albatross are so awkward on land, they are graceful and impressive in flight. An albatross in flight can be so perfectly attuned to wind conditions that it may not flap its wings for hours, or even for days, as it can sleep while flying. It takes advantage of the air currents just above the ocean's waves to soar in perpetual graceful motion. Albatross are so beautiful in the air that superstitious sailors believed they were the reincarnated spirits of dead sailors who were searching the oceans for their lost friends.

Causes of Endangerment
Overexploitation by humans is the main cause of endangerment of the short-tailed albatross. Albatross of all kinds were once highly sought after by humans. Indigenous people hunted them for food on the north coast of North America, and later the birds were easy prey for hungry explorers. Sailors used almost every part of the albatross' body: meat, oil, bones, feathers, and feet. Commercial ventures sought the beautiful long, white wing and tail feathers to make pen plumes and the downy body feathers to stuff feather beds. In one seventeen-year period, five million albatross were killed to stuff mattresses and quilts for European markets.  The ban on collection of short-tailed albatross feathers did not work until the species was no longer commercially viable.

In Alaska, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a program to teach commercial fishers how to identify short-tailed albatrosses, so they can avoid accidentally catching these rare birds in their fishing equipment.

Flying Albatross courtesy of USFW
Albatross profile courtesy of Bagheera at
  www.bagheera.com:80/