Much discrepancy, once existed in the accounts
given by various writers of the expanse of wing of the Wandering
Albatross, Diomedea exulans. We may set aside as a
gross exaggeration the assertion that examples have been obtained measuring
20 feet. Dr George Bennett of Sydney, Australia stated in his 19th
century Wanderings, etc, ii. page 363 that he has "never seen the
spread of the wings greater than fourteen feet." Later Mr. J. F.
Green (Ocean Birds,
page 5) says that, out of more than one hundred
which he had caught and measured, the largest was 11 feet 4 inches from
tip to tip, a statement exactly confirmed, he adds, by the forty years'
experience of a ship captain who had always made a point of measuring these
birds, and had never found one over that length. This seems to have
been a good estimate of size, and to date (as at 2006), the largest wingspan
of an albattross (which is in fact the largest wingspan of all birds) has
been measured at just under 12 feet.
of the Albatross
The Wandering Albatross is too well known
to need many words as to its chief features. In the adult the plumage of
the body is white, more or less mottled above by fine wavy bars, and the
quill-feathers of the wings are brownish-black. The young are suffused
with slaty-brown, the tint becoming lighter as the bird grows older.
Range of the Albatross
The Wandering Albatross is found throughout
the Southern Ocean, seldom occurring northward of latitude 30° South
(Instances are recorded of its occurrence in Europe and North America,
and no doubt examples of some species of Albatross have wandered so far
from their usual range. Fossil remains of Diomedea
have been found
in Suffolk (Q. J. Geol. Soc. 1886, page 367)) and it is invariably
met with by ships that round the Cape of Good Hope or pass the Strait of
Risk of Extinction
As a species the Wandering Albatross is said to be less numerous than most of its
smaller congeners, and one cannot but fear that it will become rarer still,
if not extinct. In the 19th century it was subjected to senseless
slaughter to which it is by the occupants of may a ship, either as "sport",
or to catch the bird for food or for its feathers. Now in the early
21st century, long-line fishing is a significant threat - the birds can
be attracted to the bait used, and get caught in the hooks and drown.
Plastic flotsam which is indigestible by the bird and can take up space
in the stomach which would otherwise be occupied by food is also a particularly
unpleasant problem. Other species of animal, for example rats, feral
cats and mice which have been introduced at its not too many breeding-places,
which are on mostly small and remote islands, have inflicted ravages upon
it, causing disastrous havoc. The bird is so endangered that an official campaign to Save the Albatross now exists in an attempt to stop the albatross from suffering a similar fate to extinct birds like the Passenger Pigeon.