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Encyclopedia > Diomedeidae
Conservation status: Endangered

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Procellariiformes
Family: Diomedeidae


The albatrosses (from Portuguese Alcatraz, a pelican) are seabirds in the family Diomedeidae, which is closely allied to the petrels. They were once commonly known as Goonie birds or Gooney birds.

This is a group of large to very large birds with very long narrow wings, which are aerodynamically highly efficient. The beak is large, strong and sharp-edged, the upper mandible terminating in a large hook. The feet have no hind toe, and the three anterior toes are completely webbed.

Albatrosses travel huge distances using a technique used by many long-winged seabirds called dynamic soaring. This enables them to minimise the effort needed by gliding across wave fronts gaining energy from the vertical wind gradient. Their principal food is cephalopods.

All 21 albatross species are endangered species (or more threatened than that) according to the IUCN Red List. Part of the blame can be put on longliners, a type of fishing technique.

"During line setting, longliners set a single line up to 130 km long behind the boat. Attached to it are literally thousands of baited hooks. An estimated 1 billion hooks are set annually by the world's longline fleets. Some of the baited hooks are eaten not by their intended targets, but by albatrosses and other seabirds. The hooked birds are dragged under water and drown." (BirdLife.net, 2004).

Current thinking divides the albatrosses into four genera:

  • North Pacific albatrosses (Phoebastria)
  • Great albatrosses (Diomedea)
    • Royal Albatross D. epomophora
    • Wandering Albatross D. exulans
    • Amsterdam Albatross D. amsterdamensis
  • Mollymawks (Thalassarche)
    • Yellow-nosed Albatross T. chlororhynchos
    • Eastern Yellow-nosed Albatross T.carteri
    • Buller's Albatross T. bulleri
    • Shy Albatross T. cauta
    • Chatham Albatross T. eremita
    • Grey-headed Albatross T. chrysostoma
    • Black-browed Albatross T. melanophris
  • Sooty albatrosses (Phoebetria)
    • Dark-mantled Sooty Albatross P. fusca
    • Light-mantled Sooty Albatross P. palpebrata.
Black-browed Albatross

The taxonomy of the albatross group is very fluid at the present time. The American Ornithological Union places seabirds, birds of prey and many others in a greatly enlarged order Ciconiiformes, whereas in Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the more traditional Procellariiformes is retained.

Both the British Ornithologists' Union and the South African authorities split the albatrosses into four genera as indicated in the table. (Ibis (2002) 144 p707-710.)

The name Diomedea, assigned to the albatrosses by Linnaeus references the mythical metamorphosis of the companions of the Greek warrior Diomedes into birds.

The world's only mainland royal albatross colony (http://www.albatross.org.nz/) is within the city limits of Dunedin, New Zealand.

An albatross figures prominently in the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Black-browed Albatross

External links

  • Albatross resources from Bird Online (http://www.birdonline.org/birds/albatross.htm) (North America)
  • ITIS (http://www.itis.usda.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=174514) (Follows the AOU classification.)
  • Roberts' VII Bird Species List (http://web.uct.ac.za/depts/fitzpatrick/docs/listintro.html) (South Africa.)
  • HANZAB complete species list (http://www.birdsaustralia.com.au/hanzab/HANZAB_spp_list.pdf) (Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds.)
  • Birdlife international Save the Albatross campaign (http://www.birdlife.net/action/campaigns/save_the_albatross/)

Albatross is also a Golf term, meaning three strokes under par.

  Results from FactBites:
From Diomedeidae to the Procellariidae, this computed value in- creased substantially to a mean value of 117.91% (n = 28, SD = 11.64) and identified the outgroup comparisons at codon third positions highly af- fected by multiple substitutions, i.e.
We therefore recommend a formal revision of the taxonomy of Diomedeidae to achieve a clas- sification congruent with the new phylogenetic hypothesis of relationships.
Within the Diomedeidae, however, both basal metabolic rate (Adams and Brown 1984) and age at first breeding (Jouventin and Wei- merskirch 1988) vary by much less than an or- der of magnitude, and evolutionary-rate cali- brations among the now well-established phy- logenetic lineages are possible.
Albatross, Birds, Albatross, Bird Pictures, Catalog, Encyclopedia (233 words)
Date : 10/23/2005 Time : 2:55:26 AM Albatross is the common name for large web-footed marine birds belonging to the family Diomedeidae, order Procellariiformes.
Some of the 13 or 14 species also are known as mollymawks or gooney birds.
Because of the albatross theme in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the bird's name has become a metaphor for a troublesome burden.
  More results at FactBites »



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