March 29, 2023

Wandering Albatross

Wandering Albatross
Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Castro podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge

In this episode we talk about the Wandering Albatross! Relax, unwind, and join me in a boat on the Southern Seas, where we learn all about the bird with the largest wingspan on earth.


To submit your animal request, head to the "Animal Request" tab

For exclusive content like Intro-Free Episodes and the Extinct Animal Mini-Series, go to the Patreon by clickinghere.


To contact Stefan Wolfe:


If you would like to learn more, the resources used in this episode are listed below:


Charity in today's episode: Bird Life International (


Rock some awesome podcast-themed merch by clicking here.


You can also check out informative blog posts on

Get Bonus Content on Patreon

Hosted on Acast. See for more information.


hello everyone welcome back to relax with the animal facts I am staff Wolff and today I am going to be learning with you about our furry scaly or possibly even slimy friends and in today's case it is actually going to be a feathery friend of ours because we are covering the %HESITATION so wonderful wandering albatross this of course is a very special listener episode dedicated to Cheyenne who happened to request this awesome creature and so Cheyenne I hope you enjoy your very own episode this one wouldn't have been possible without your writing in for how to send in your animal request to have your very own episode and for all of the facts that were used in this one you can either go to the show notes or the description where all of that information is there or you can wait until the end and which I will give some instruction to those things and if you like relax with animal facts you can get more of it for only a dollar a month through patrie on a new episode just went live in which we dove deep into the amazing mechanism of bioluminescence and so you can go to patron dot com slash relax with animal facts or just click the patron link in the description if you'd like to listen to more of the show while supporting it and now with this begin to wind down I have three exhortations for you before we hop right into the episode the first is to put on a pair of shoes that I don't think we have actually put on before those being some boat shoes they are perhaps not the most flattering pair of shoes but we are here to look at the wandering albatross knocked our feet and the second thing I encourage you to do is perhaps to recognize where you were carrying some tension is it in the head isn't in the shoulders or the neck if you are listening to this with somebody else you might will notice that you Kerry tension in different places for me I always carry tension in my hands and my head and it is quite difficult to relax when we are stiff as a board and so I encourage you to even bring up maybe an image of the cello in your mind and do your best to impersonate it just let go and relax and my third exhortation to you dear friend is that you keep your mind permission to wonder and journey with me into the colder Southern Ocean waters where the wandering albatross resigns now I think that this episode is a unique one because usually when we are going out into the ocean we prepare our scuba gear and we dive in but today we are actually going to be staying on the boat and looking out at these albatross is and here in this environment in addition to those fashionable boat shoes I think a few layers are required to keep us warm now the reason we are here on the Southern Ocean waters is because the wandering albatross is actually absent from the north Atlantic Ocean here in the southern colder waters there is an abundance of food due to upwelling and let me just to find that word up Welling it is basically the upward movement of deeper colder water here in this area there are pretty strong winds and they will blow parallel to the coastline and so the surface water is pushed off shore and then water is drawn up from the bottom to replace the water that has been pushed away by the wind and that deep of water that is coming to replace the surface water is very rich in nutrients and so basically you have a greater abundance of biological activity of life because you have a lot more nutrients to supply it and so the wandering albatross prefers these very fertile waters that are teeming with life and of course fish now we are mostly used to soundscapes that are made purely from outside of us by C. crickets and birds and the wind but today we have the pleasure of joining in with our slightly creaky boat now the wandering albatross is the common name of this creature but their scientific name is Dio Madea excellence this took me a little bit of time to unpack but the former wird die you many a which is the genius of albatross is this word is taken from the Latin word Dio medi S. and that's Latin word comes from the Greek word diabetes or rather the Greek name diabetes it is the name of a legendary Greek warrior and this warrior upon returning from his time in the Trojan War was turned into a bird along with his companions it is interesting to think that in this purely semantic sense or just from the meaning of these words that the wandering albatross can be associated with a mighty warrior the latter word of their scientific name is excellence that word excellence comes from a Latin word that means to be in exile so taking their entire scientific name it could mean something like a warrior in exile now as we are going to be learning more and more about how the wandering albatross lives their life we can see how one can go under the idea that they are somehow in exile their common name after role is the wandering albatross so this of course is a very large sea bird and it is a truly amazing bird because by wing span it is number one in the world it has the single largest wingspan of any bird in the animal kingdom and so it is the largest extant bird not by height or by weight but strictly by wing span in these huge wings will allow them to collide for hours and hours without flapping their wings a single time this law back of a need to flap their wings and just to coast or go on auto pilot over the winds of the C. ensures that they do not use a lot of energy in the air at all and this is precisely the reason why they were given such a name as wandering albatross war as regards their scientific name a warrior in exile they spend the majority of their life not on land but really out at sea their large wings give them the ability to coast the majority of her life and so seemingly being in exile over the waters so their wing span is about three point two meters or ten and a half feet warm that is around double the size of an average human being and while that three point two meters or ten and a half feet is the average the Guinness book of world records claims that the largest wingspan of any living species was an albatross with a wing span of three point six three meters or eleven foot eleven the functioning of their wings can be compared to the functioning of sales on a sailboat basically zigzagging across the wind in order to make progress forward through a headwind these gliding birds will go down and go up continuously basically swooping low over these headwinds that are continuously present over the Southern Ocean and then using the height that they have gained in order to collide down again and became more distance this process of flying is something that is known as dynamic scoring and this mechanism is the one that allows them to flap their wings sows sparingly this is why in a single day the wandering albatross can cover distances of five hundred and ninety miles about nine hundred in fifty kilometers averaging speeds of twenty five miles an hour or forty kilometers an hour one bird that was tracked circled Antarctica in a mere forty six days for those of you with a global home you can simply look at how large Antarctic it is and that is an impressive track or rather an impressive flight now at the base of their wings they have something that locks them into place in this outstretched position this mechanism ensures that the albatross doesn't have to worry about constantly holding their arms out and creating muscular strain of course when the albatross wings are outstretched and extended they are not in a resting position just like you and hi if we were to hold out our arms in this outstretched position like a bird at a ninety degree angle we would be using our shoulder muscles to hold them up continuously but in the case of the albatross they have a mechanism that takes that out of the equation in which they can just rest out at that position for those very long flights that mechanism is a lifesaver the wandering albatross has a lot more fibers that are known as slow twitch rather than fast which birds that flap their wings a good amount or quickly will often have a lot more fast twitch fibers than slow twitch the slow twitch fibers that the wandering albatross has have the job of basically making continuous adjustments to their wings as they are flying around and these adjustments are especially small if you compare them to the adjustments needed when a bird is actively flapping their wings all of these things is what allows a wandering albatross to fly a distance that would be covered by most other birds in a year in a single week or two the one downside of their very special wings it means they're going to be having a harder time to take off initially than most other birds when there was little to no wind those airplanes size wings are going to have a hard time lifting their body off into the air the level of difficulty will range on a few factors like how much they have eaten for example and how much wind is present at where they are trying to take off initially but this is the trade off for those cruising wings that they have and considering they can travel over nine hundred kilometers over four hundred miles every single day they can travel seventy five thousand miles or one hundred and twenty thousand kilometers in a single year this will differ among individual wandering albatross is depending on certain circumstances but that is simply astonishing if it were not for a car I probably would not travel that amount in my entire life now while they do spend the majority of their life in the air above the ocean they do land for breeding season they will go on certain islands in the south Atlantic Ocean like south Georgia island the Crozet islands Prince Edward Island and others as a Canadian I take some pride in that the wandering albatross likes P. E. I. many people only associate potatoes with P. E. I. but now they may associate wandering albatross is in addition to those potatoes one more reason to visit and so in total this bird is going to live more than fifty years on average they do not have many natural predators of course other than humans who oftentimes interact with them not even intentionally but they have a capacity to live a very long time like many other birds they look a lot bigger than what they actually the way which is just around twelve kilograms or twenty six pounds like most other birds they have hollow bones that allow them to be very very light of course for the sake of flying and they're mostly going to be feeding upon fish and squid there are plenty of these creatures in the ocean especially in which there are those will lapse with that very nutrient dense water from the deep is pushed up towards the surface and so the frequently have an abundance of food no on the super long flights that the wandering albatross goes on they're going to be close to always active they're even active during the night time while there is sunshine they're going to spend their entire time in the air and at night while they do not cover nearly as much distance the wandering albatross has been tracked to still be constantly moving throughout the night time rarely stopping for periods of more than an hour and a half and so at night when they're feeding they sometimes feed in smaller groups and they will make those shallow dives as they hunt they will plunge themselves into the water and tried to scoop up cephalopods small fish and crustaceans and sometimes the albatross eats so much that it is unable to actually fly it will just spend some time %HESITATION weeding and floating around in the water until it can fly again now some may I ask the question if they're spending all this time in the air how was it that they never really need a drink of fresh water and the answer was a very interesting one they have a particular clan that allows them to desalinated saltwater for those of you who have ever swim in the salty oceans you know that you cannot drink that water it is simply too salty but the wondering albatrosses can by the help of this gland that has a desalination mechanism built into it that removes the salt from their bodies as the intake saltwater the sold clans are positioned in the place that perhaps is not very intuitive they are located above the eyes when the salt is mostly separated from the water it is then secreted through those docks that %HESITATION toward the tips of their beaks and then they will quickly exhale the salty liquid into a fine mist and in this way they have no need for fresh water because they pretty much make their own and so while they can drink sea water keep in mind that they are eating a lot of fish and other sorts of creatures and so they will intake %HESITATION lots of liquid just through their diet they will not drink a lot of sea water but if they offered to they have a mechanism for it we put a lot of stress on mechanical digestion before we swallow food by means of chewing with her teeth but in the case of the wandering albatross they swallow their prey whole they can swallow things that are up to three point two kilograms or around six and a half pounds which is over thirty percent of their entire body weight and they can do this because their digestive system is quite efficient they have very acidic stomachs at a PH of about one point five and so what ever they eat is very rapidly digested by this strong stomach acid a stomach acid that is similar to that of vultures who eat a lot of carrion and so even their digestive system is very well suited to their environment now the adult albatrosses is are a black and white color well the small or baby albatross is are brownish no one other sense that is stressed in the wandering albatross is actually their sense of smell this may be doesn't become very intuitively but to the wandering albatross in fact has one of the biggest olfactory bulbs which is used for smelling of any bird so those strong winds on the ocean will actually Kerry sends into their nose and it will allow them to identify perhaps where there is some smelly squid they of course have a very strong vision as well and so these two senses are going to work in tandem to give them plenty of information as to where to dive and get some fresh food now it's around eleven years of age the wandering albatross will look to have albatross is of their own and so after they land finally on one of those islands that we spoke about earlier the mails will court the females with disabilities and vocalizations and some of their displays can be very very complex and elaborate and these creatures are typically monogamous meaning that the male and the female albatross will meet together for life and they will normally meet again every two years with the breeding season starts in early November until March we see that many creatures come together in the spring time but in the case of the wandering albatross it is during mostly the winter time they will gather on these large colonies on those remote islands and make their nests from a combination of grass and mud they will typically have just one egg at a time that will hatch after an eleven week period and once the check is born the male and female will take turns going out to hunt and who stays home with the check it's interesting that we see this similar mechanism in creatures like penguins for example in which the the male and the female will take turns doing different things and now let us move on to the name of the animal albatross what does it mean or where does it come from will this word is used to denote large web footed sea birds of the petrol family it was first coined in the sixteen seventies in its usage and it's entomology is not exactly clear there are some entomologists that think the albatross comes from an Arabic word perhaps from a Portuguese word but we know that the spelling was likely influenced by the Latin word albus which simply beans white the albatross is a mixture of white and black in adulthood and so this would make sense English sailors by the seventeenth century began to use this word to denote a larger sea bird a larger sea birds that was not found in the north Atlantic at all as is the case today no because the albatross frequently follows ships and boats in order to maybe get scraps from people a superstition kind of came to life from sailors no matter how many hundreds of miles or kilometers they would go that same albatross would be there with them for those of you that are into poetry Samuel Coleridge wrote a poem called rime of the ancient mariner and this really propelled the albatross into a position of interest it is a very good poem and so if you like poetry I would encourage you to read it let's now let us move on to the charity of the episode many a time the animals that we cover don't actually have any existing charities but in the case of the wandering albatross this is not the case there is an albatross task force which sounds pretty cool and intense there is an albatross task force that is led by birdlife international I like the name albatross task force birdlife international basically works on board certain vessels the show crews simple ways to not get in the way of sea birds and they work in the governmental round to implement regulations and and to change certain practices for the betterment of albatross as they worked in South Africa in two thousand six and today there is a ninety nine percent reduction in albatross deaths things like haphazardly strewn out fishing lines and whatnot can be very difficult for a wandering albatross to go through without being caught and birdlife international has been working to reduce those accidents and seemingly very successfully and so if you want to be included in their mission of helping albatross is you can go to birdlife dot org and become a member and now let us move on to a review of the show for today's review L. one three nine zero is writing all the way from Great Britain and L. writes hello my name is Alex I am an animal lover and interested in pursuing a career into veterinary medicine your podcast has helped me relax so much when I thought nothing could thank you you have a calming voice that is amazing to listen to and relax too my suggestion for an animal is the spider monkey my favorite animals since I was six and studied for five years I think many interesting facts would be found for the spider monkey thank you thank you Alex for taking the time to leave such a kind review I am so happy that you are part of the show and that you enjoy it the spider monkey is also a fantastic animal to cover budget given that you have studied it for five years I doubt I could tell you something that you did not already know however given that I am very interested in monkeys I too would love to learn more about the spider monkey along with all of you listening and so if the show has helped you in any way and do you want to take a couple of moments to give back leaving a review is truly one of the quickest and most effective ways of giving back to the show but to our listenership truly is gift enough for those of you that would like to request your very own animal episode you can do so by sending your animal request to relax with animal facts dot com by clicking on the animal request tab to request your very own animal episode you can go to relax with animal facts dot com and click on the animal request tab if you want to reach me for any other reason you can send an email to relax with animal facts at G. mail dot com or you can send a message to relax with animal facts on Instagram if you would like an intro free version of this episode and many more along with exclusive episodes you can do so by going to patrie on dot com slash relax with animal facts or by clicking on the Patreon link down in the show notes all of the facts that were used in this episode come from biology dictionary dot net cool Antarctica dot com fact animal dot com birdlife dot org ocean explorer dot N. O. A. A. dot gov and at him online dot com without these resources I have course wouldn't have had access to the breadth of facts I had today and so I encourage all of you to go to those in the show notes and explore more to your heart's content what an amazing creature we have covered today the largest wingspan of any bird on planet earth isn't that special from just looking at them floating on the water or standing on the land they look unassuming and very ordinary but as is almost always the case there is so much treasure to be discovered about them thank you all for taking the time to join me on this journey today I hope that you have enjoyed this episode as much as I have and I look forward to seeing you on the next podcast episode with the next animal take care