Jan 27, 2010

Wandering Albatross - World's Largest Wingspan More Than 3.5 Metres

The Wandering Albatross, Snowy Albatross, or White-winged Albatross, Diomedea exulans, is a large seabird from the family Diomedeidae which has a circumpolar range in the Southern Ocean. It was the first species of albatross to be described, and was long considered the same species as the Tristan Albatross and the Antipodean Albatross. In fact, a few authors still consider them all subspecies of the same species. The SACC has a proposal on the table to split this species, and BirdLife International has already split it. Together with the Amsterdam Albatross it forms the Wandering Albatross species complex. The Wandering Albatross is the largest member of the genus Diomedea (the great albatrosses), one of the largest birds in the world, and is one of the best known and studied species of bird in the world.

The Wandering Albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird, with the wingspan between 251–350 cm (8.2–11.5 ft). The longest-winged examples verified have been about 3.7 m (12 ft), but probably apocryphal reports of as much as 5.3 m (17 ft) are known. As a result of its wingspan, it is capable of remaining in the air without beating its wings for several hours at a time (travelling 22 m for every meter of drop). The length of the body is about 107–135 cm (3.5–4.4 ft) with females being slightly smaller than males, and they weigh typically from 6.25–11.3 kg (13.8–24.9 lb). Immature birds have been recorded weighing as much as 16.1 kg (35 lb) during their first flights. The plumage varies with age, with the juveniles starting chocolate brown. As they age they lose their color and get whiter. The adults have white bodies with black and white wings. Males have whiter wings than females with just the tips and trailing edges of the wings black. They also show a faint peach spot on the side of the head. The Wandering Albatross is the whitest of the Wandering Albatross species complex, the other species having a great deal more brown and black on the wings and body as breeding adults, very closely resembling immature Wandering Albatrosses. The large bill is pink, as are the feet. They also have a salt gland that is situated above the nasal passage and helps desalinate their bodies, due to the high amount of ocean water that they imbibe. It excretes a high saline solution from their nose.



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