One of the largest birds in the world has begun to breed earlier in the season. In a study published in Oikos, researchers stated that the wandering albatross had begun laying its eggs an average of 2.2 days sooner than in the past 30 years. Although climate change may be to blame, the scientists from the University of Edinburgh are not sure what has caused the change. Dr. Sue Lewis says:
Our results are surprising. Every year we can determine when the birds return to the island after migration, and the exact day they lay their eggs. We knew that some birds were laying earlier — those who were older or had recently changed partner — but now we see that those which haven’t bred successfully in the past are also laying earlier, and these birds are effectively driving this trend in earlier laying.
The egg-laying records came from birds living near Bird Island, which is part of South Georgia. The wandering albatross has the lowest reproductive rate of any bird, laying just one egg per alternate year in December. The chicks hatch in April and fledge the following November.
Several albatross species face extinction due to the birds swallowing long line fishing hooks. On Bird Island, the wandering albatross population has fallen from 1,700 breeding pairs in the 1960s to 800, according to the BAS.
It should be possible to find some interesting facts about albatrosses on page 5!
1. ACAP is a multilateral agreement to conserve albatrosses and petrels. It has 13 member countries and covers 29 species of albatrosses and petrels, including the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans).
2.An “albatross round the neck” is a phrase that means having to bear an unfortunate burden. It comes from Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
3.Birdlife International is running a campaign to stop longline fishing to save the albatross.