Albatrosses are graceful sea birds known in all oceans of the world expect the North Atlantic. The short horny tubes formed by their nostrils on top of their long, hooked bills identify them as ”tube-nosed swimmers.” Albatrosses excel as fliers. Their exceedingly long, very narrow wings make them notable soarers. They ride the winds and, when gales blow, can go faster than ships. On land they are slow and awkward. Albatrosses feed on small marine animals and also on galley refuse when following ships at sea. They breed in colonies on oceanic islands. The breeding of some species has never been investigated. The females lay one large egg (white or white spotted with brown) on the bare ground or on a carelessly piled heap of grass or seaweeds. The wandering Albatross has longer wing than any other bird in the world. They measure 11 feet from tip to tip.
This big bird has know to travel 6,000 miles over open seas. Often it follows ships. Whaling captains and shipwrecked sailors have scratched messages on tin or wood or put them in small bottles, then attached them to Wandering Albatrosses. Several such messages have brought rescue marooned sailors. Wandering Albatrosses nests in colonies on small islands a little north of the Antarctic continent. It ranges over all southern seas. English seamen named it “gooney,” which comes from an old English word meaning “a simpleton.” They do not stupid when flying, but only on land or in the water. The Black-footed Albatross, a sooty gray bird with black feet and legs, is the smallest of the 13 different albatrosses. Its wing wingspread is only seven feet. It lives in the North Pacific and often comes within five miles of the shore. It is well known along the west coast of North America. The Laysan Albatross is a slightly larger North Pacific bird with a white body and a black back and wings. It seldom comes from within 20 miles of land except when nesting. Both of the Laysan and the Black-footed albatrosses breed on small islands west of Hawaii. Their solemn, comical dances when courting amuse air passengers who stop at Midway Island where the nesting birds are very tame.