Albatross Flies Off Course to New Jersey
by David Johnson
To the delight of bird watchers and the surprise of biologists, a yellow-nosed albatross, one of several species of albatross, has been paying a most unusual visit to the northeastern United States. Albatrosses live mainly in South America, flying above the South Atlantic and South Pacific oceans in search of fish for food.
The lost albatross first was spotted May 9 2000 off Buzzard's Bay in Massachusetts. It has since been flying south. Rangers at the Fire Island National Seashore off Long Island were astonished to see the albatross sitting on the beach with a group of herring gulls May 15. A few days later, a bird expert driving along the Garden State Parkway in southern New Jersey was amazed to see the enormous bird cruising along above the median strip.
Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
Experts think the albatross somehow flew off course, or maybe was blown north by a hurricane. The bird could be confused because it is now fall in the Southern Hemisphere.
The scientists also think the albatross is looking for a mate among the plentiful shore birds it has been seen with.
Since albatrosses are so comfortable in the air, they almost never land, except in search of a mate, to build a nest, and hatch an egg. The albatross lays one egg at time that takes two to three months to hatch.
Albatrosses even sleep in the air, cruising confidently along at 25 mph!
A Majestic, Powerful Bird
The long, tapered wings of the albatross make it a powerful, impressive flier. Albatrosses can soar magnificently in high winds, swoop dramatically, and glide with ease. The wingspan of the yellow-nosed albatross can reach seven feet, while other varieties have wingspans of up to ten feet.
Albatrosses have webbed feet and hooked beaks. They have few enemies, except humans, and can live for several decades.
Another Meaning of 'Albatross'
The word "albatross" also means a constant burden or worry, or an obstacle to success. This meaning comes from the famous poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, in which the mariner killed an albatross and had to wear it around his neck as penance.