Do you like large birds? Because if so, you’ll love the albatross species, one of the largest in the world of birds. You may not be able to keep her as a pet, but does that keep you from learning something new from her?
Where in the world do they live?
This bird, the short-tailed albatross, is also known as the Steller’s albatross, and with the scientific name phoebastria albatrus. It is a species of procelariform bird of the Diomedeidae family and is endemic to the North Pacific.
The territory of this species covers most of the northern Pacific Ocean, inhabiting the highest densities in the areas of the Pacific basin shelf, especially along the coasts of Japan, eastern Russia, the Aleutians and Alaska.
Is it that big?
Within the albatross family, the short-tailed bird is considered a medium sized bird, as it is only 89 cm long and can weigh up to 10 kg in weight.
An adult’s color is white with a golden color in the crown and nape area, which darkens to a blackish brown tone descending down his or her back. When they are young, it is blackish brown in colour, with flesh-coloured legs.
Its throat, chest and neck are a light cream colour, with a pinkish beak and wings that appear to be scaled. They begin with a grayish color that darkens as they descend to the tip of the tail, which has a darker shade. As they age, the albatross’ beak tips turn blue.
What is the current status of the species?
The truth is that the species is currently estimated to be made up of some 2,364 specimens. These are divided between Torishima in Japan and Minami-Kojima in the Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by Japan and China. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the species reduced its number of specimens considerably, especially due to the exploitation of this species to obtain its feathers. It was believed to be extinct until 1951, when specimens were again found on these islands. In total, it is believed that there are about 426 breeding pairs.
It is a bird that gathers in colonies once a year for breeding. Their birth rate is quite low, as the female only lays one egg. Incubation lasts between 64-65 days. It appears that they cannot reproduce until they are five years old, but most often a female albatross does not reproduce until she is six years old.
The diet of a short-tailed albatross consists mainly of squid, but it also catches shrimp, different species of fish, eggs of flying fish as well as some crustaceans. On some occasions, they have followed boats in order to be able to feed on waste and the remains of fish that the crew members throw away.
During the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries it was a highly persecuted and exploited species in order to obtain its feathers for the manufacture of pillows, cushions, coats… But that was not the only reason for its decline. On the one hand, they have the instability of the soil in which they reproduce, followed by mortality due to the loss of their habitat due to the active volcano in Torishima, added to the mortality when they fish. In addition, some predators have been introduced to the islands over time, reducing the number of colonies.
Thanks to the efforts of the different associations, the situation of this species is currently vulnerable, because a lot of work has been done to conserve it.