The Waved Albatross boasts the largest wingspan of any bird in the Galapagos. The Galapagos Waved Albatross is so-called because of the distinctive wave-like pattern that forms on the adult birds’ wings. Not only is a unique species to the Galapagos, it only breeds on one site on Espanola Island. These elegant birds mate for life, and there are estimated to be only 12,000 breeding pairs remaining. The species is critically endangered.
Renowned for their unparalleled gliding skills, Albatrosses spend their time at sea outside of the breeding season. During this time the whole population migrates and can be found anywhere from the eastern waters off the archipelago to the coasts between Colombia and Peru. Here they feed on fish, squid and other small marine animals, often scavenging near fishing boats.
It’s this relationship with humans that is their greatest threat. Long-line fishing boats in the Pacific lay out hundreds of miles of baited hooks which attract the birds, and once they try to eat the bait they get hooked and drown after being dragged under. While long-lining is banned within the Galapagos National Park, once the birds leave the area to feed they have no protection.
In the Galapagos on Espanola, however, they are safe and breed successfully. Pairs of Waved Albatross mate for life, and each season the female lays a single egg on the bare ground. Male Albatross are modern parents, and they take their fair share of sitting on the egg to incubate it for the two months until it hatches.
A wonderful sight is the courtship dance of the Galapagos Albatross. This intricate and intimate activity strengthens the bond between the pair and includes bill clacking, head circling, waddling, and head nodding. During the dance, the birds make a distinctive “moo” noise. On a Galapagos cruise, our expert naturalist guides will make sure that you have the best possible opportunity to observe these rare creatures to make some unforgettable memories.
Fast Facts about the Galapagos Waved Albatross
- Waved Albatross are the largest seabirds found in Galapagos
- Wave Albatross have a beautiful and elaborate courtship dance after which they mate for life
- When Waved Albatross chicks leave the nest they fly out to sea and won't return for 6 years
- Waved Albatross are critically endangered, and despite efforts their population continues to decrease