Two species of birds. In many ways, quite opposite. The smaller flightless bird with an aquatic life, very capable swimmers – the penguin. The very large bird with an aerial life, very capable flyers – the albatross. Some species of penguins are less than a foot in height. Some species of albatross have wingspans of over 12 feet. Most of us have probably seen “March of The Penguins,” or “Happy Feet,” and we might even think of cold Antarctica when we think of penguins. And some of us may have even heard of the legend that albatross are believed to carry the souls of lost or drowned sailors out at sea. But no matter which bird, they are both equally fascinating!
The Royal Albatross in Flight
My travels have not only been about meeting people, or learning about other cultures, or visiting museums and churches, or touring and walking through cities, or shopping. My travels are also about being outdoors, in nature, and observing wildlife. During my travels, I have had three experiences watching penguins, and one encounter viewing albatross. And neither of these have been in the cold Antarctic, nor out at sea. They have been in New Zealand and Australia.
The Breeding Grounds of the Royal Albatross Centre
At The Royal Albatross Centre in Dunedin, New Zealand, I took a guided tour of a colony of a species of albatross, the Royal Albatross, one of the largest seabirds in the world. Here I walked on paths that took me up close to the areas where these birds breed and feed. At the time of year that I was there, I was able to see adorable fluffy-looking albatross babies, and their parents taking care of them. Through binoculars in an observation center, I watched these beautiful creatures soaring above.
The Majestic Wingspan
I learned a lot of interesting facts about the majestic Royal Albatross during my tour. Not only is their wingspan nearly 12 feet in length, which is more than twice as tall as I am, they spend most of their lives in flight or at sea using these powerful wings. The birds amazingly travel up to 118,000 miles per year, at speeds of nearly 75 miles per hour. (I actually learned these statistics in meters and kilometers, but translated them to feet and miles for this blog.)
Fledgling and Parent
Due to the accountant in me, I had to figure out some of these stats as they relate to the planet Earth. The circumference of the Earth is about 25,000 miles. This means that the Royal Albatross can circumnavigate the Earth almost 5 times per year! Wow – the strength and stamina of their wings!
The Royal Albatross make for loving and committing couples. They mate for life. During the breeding season, they lay one egg, and once it is hatched, the parents take turns feeding and protecting their fledgling. After approximately a year, the baby albatross is ready to take flight. At this time, the parents leave the colony to take to the air and the seas. The male and female actually separate to fly around the world in opposite directions. (I’m not sure which one goes clockwise.) Yet after two years of traveling alone, they return to the same breeding ground, arriving within a couple days of one another to meet and breed once again. Talk about romantic!
Please read my next blog where I describe my penguin encounters.