Marine Wildlife Encyclopedia
Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans
This legendary sea bird has the largest recorded wingspan of any bird, at up to 11 ft (3.5 m). It is restricted to the windswept southern oceans, where it feeds mainly on squid, snatching its food from the surface of the water. It is capable of remaining airborne for weeks at a time and frequently follows ships, soaring over the waves on its stiff, outstretched wings. The wandering albatross takes up to 11 years to mature, and during that time it gradually loses its juvenile plumage, becoming all white except for black markings on the tips and trailing edges of its wings. These birds nest on remote islands, typically breeding in alternate years.
Wandering albatrosses build large, moundlike nests from mud, grass, and moss. Their single egg has one of the longest incubation periods of any egg, taking between 75 and 82 days to hatch. The solitary chick then remains in the nest for up to nine months, where it is fed by both its parents. During very severe weather, the chick may be left unattended for days at a time.