Black-Browed Albatross

Black-browed albatross are known for their beauty and the remarkable 'black thick eyebrows' over their eyes. Also known as 'mollymawks', these endangered birds are a very interesting species in their own way.
The black-browed albatross is considered to be an endangered species from the albatross family. It is a large sea-bird with some unique identifiable features which are also responsible for giving it its name, 'Black-browed' albatross. This is because it has a thick black plumage around its eyes. This bird is almost 80-95 cm long and weighs anywhere between 2.9-4.7 kg. They have a wingspan of about 79-94 inches and can live as long as the humans with an average life span of more than 70 years! The scientific name of this magnificent sea-bird is Thalassarche Melanophrys, wherein the term 'melanophrys' is a Greek term which consists of two words, melanos meaning 'black' and ophrus meaning 'the eyebrow'.

Apart from the unique black eyebrow like identification, they also have a yellowish orange beak whose tip is reddish-orange. They also have a bright pink shade on its upper wings and saddle which contrasts with the colorful beak and the broad black margins on the white underwing. The young ones don't have the yellowish orange bill, but rather have a dark gray or horn colored bill. As compared to the other albatross species, this albatross is relatively smaller.

Habitat

These are migratory birds which are commonly found in the southern oceans. They breed on 12 different islands, the maximum number of birds being found in the Falkland Islands, accounting for almost 85% of the total population. They are also found in other locations like South Georgia Island, Chile, Antipodes Island, Campbell Island, Heard Island, McDonald Island, Crozet Islands, Kerguelen Islands, Macquarie Island, and Snares Islands. They live on water for most of their lives and choose to live on land only during mating and breeding. When on land, they live in the form of huge colonies.

Breeding

Speaking of their breeding nature, these birds usually tend to have the same breeding partner every season. In order to express their courting displays, they use their fanned tail. Remember I told you that they stay on land only during the breeding season? They nest on tussock grass-covered steep slopes and cliffs. They breed once every year and usually lay about one egg between September 20-November 1. Although, since the Falklands are the favorite breeding spots of these birds, they are known to lay their eggs about a month earlier. The incubation period of these eggs varies between 68-71 days, with both the sexes incubating. The newborn chicks take about 130 days to grow feathers and take a flight. The young ones don't start breeding before their 10th year, but do return to their colonies after 2-3 years to learn and practice the rituals of courtship.

These birds are also accused of stealing food from other species. Their diet consists of fish, squids, krill, cephalopods, and certain fishery discards. They are also known to be very noisy and harsh because of their squawky noise which they make to mark their territories along with braying. Their huge wings help them travel fairly long distances to find food. It also helps them take control of their flying under the harsh winds that blow over the Antarctic and Sub Antarctic waters.

Some Interesting Facts

Now that we have fairly understood about the nature and breeding pattern of this beautiful bird, let us have a look at some interesting facts about this magnificent species.
  • An interesting behavioral observance about this species is that they can share space with other bird species near their colonies. But if other species of the albatross comes closer than 1½ meters from their nests, they will never ever tolerate this!
  • The flight of this bird is very similar to that of the aircraft. Just like an aircraft, they lower their webbed feet while landing (like an aircraft lowers its landing gear) and then use their feet to slow down their speed.
  • They also produce a stomach oil, which is used to feed the young chicks as a form of energy food, and also used against the predators.
  • They also possess a salt gland which is situated right above their nasal passage. This salt gland helps in excreting the excess saline solution from their nose.
So, this was a brief insight into the life of the albatross with black brows! I hope you enjoyed reading about this interesting bird the same way I loved writing about it. It is sad to know that this bird is among the many endangered bird species that are on their verge of becoming extinct. If there is anything that you would like to share about this wonderful species, then feel free to do so in the comments section below.
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