Vulnerable Albatross Racks Up Frequent Flier Miles

Posted by ardeidae on January 17, 2005

The Grey-Headed Albatross (Thalassarche chrysostoma, also Diomedea chrysostoma) has been found to travel around the world in 46 days. A recent study conducted by scientists at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge revealed that Grey-Headed Albatrosses can travel more than 25,000 miles in the 18 months between their breeding seasons. Of the 22 birds successfully tracked using electronic leg monitors, they found that 12 of the birds circled the globe at least once, travelling east at a latitude just south of South America and Africa. Three of those made the trip twice.

The 18-month study was designed to help conservationists protect the albatross by imposing tighter restrictions on commercial fishing, as these birds are being trapped, caught in fishing lines, and snagged by baited hooks, where they’re dragged under and drowned. With 19 of the 21 subspecies on the Red List as high risk of endangerment, BirdLife International estimates that 100,000 albatrosses die each year through longline fishing and has determined them the bird family most threatened with extinction. Check out their campaign, Save the Albatross.

For results of the study, see “Global circumnavigations: Tracking year-round ranges of non-breeding albatrosses” by John P. Croxall, Janet R.D. Silk, Richard A. Phillips, Vsevolod Afanasyev and Dirk Briggs, published in Science on January 14, 2005.


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