The plight of the Amesterdam Albatros is fraught with challenges at every turn.
For starters, what if the only place you could get “intimate” with your partner was in a room full of all your friends, family, and everyone you’ve ever met.
This is how it is for these birds, all living on the same island – Amsterdam Island.
Added to that, danger besets you at all sides.
There are predators after you constantly, even surprisingly- mice, who sometimes can be found jumping on their backs and eating their flesh while they’re alive!
The above video contains a Tristan Albatross on Gough being fed upon by wild mice – thanks to avid birder and albatross aficionado Otto Plantema for pointing that out! The Amsterdam Albatross is afflicted with this issue as well, as the mice there can be relentless when it comes to feeding on these birds.
In many ways, the precious environment of the Amsterdam Albatross is being threatened as we speak.
In this article, we will focus on why these birds are in jeopardy, and yet still manage to survive, while their numbers are globally dwindling.
On the whole, there is certainly much less courting and mating happening globally, as the necessary circumstances under which these unique birds may court are becoming less and less.
As we delve further, here is what we are going to cover:
- Basic Info about the Amsterdam Albatross
- Amsterdam Island
- Primary Threats
- Where To Spot an Amsterdam Albatross
We also have some good video about albatrosses that you can watch, including:
- Atlantic Albatross – extreme animals (BBC Wildlife clip)
- Wings of the Albatross (National Geographic – full documentary)
- Tiger Shark Vs. Albatross (National Geographic)
Basic Info about the Amsterdam Albatross
Name: Diomedea Amsterdamensis (not to be confused with Wandering Albatross)
Size: 42- 48 inches/107-122 cms
Wingspan: 110-130 inches/ 280-340 cm
Weight: 11-18 pounds/ 4.8 – 8 kg
Lifespan: 30-50 years
Breeding ground: Amsterdam Island
Age begin breeding: nine years
Breeding frequency: biennial (every 2 years)
Incubation time: 80 days
Number of chicks: one per season
Breeding plumage: mainly brown
Bill: mainly pink with dark edges
Breeding time: february to march
Fledge time: 230 days//january to february
Food: squid, crustaceans, fish
Status: critically endangered
Next, let’s go to Amsterdam Island – home to the Amsterdam Albatross.
The only place on earth that this rare but interesting bird does its courtships is on Amsterdam Island in the South Indian Ocean.
Because this type of Albatross is so rare, relatively little is known about their whereabouts when not on the island.
However, sightings have been made in Australia and South Africa, so they have been known to travel far.
There are approximately only 70-90 mature birds left on the planet, and a total population of approximately 170.
What are some of the major threats to the shrinking population of the Amsterdam Albatross? We talk about that next.
Feral Cats, Cows
Dangers that these birds can and do encounter range from the introduction of cats on the island, which have subsequently turned feral, to something as seemingly innocent as cows.
As previously mentioned, even something as unassuming as mice can wreak havoc amongst these sensitive sea birds.
Let’s have another look at the environs of Amsterdam Island.
This is not because the cows themselves are a threat, but because their presence on the island has resulted in the trampling and destruction of vegetation of the breeding ground, which is not all that big.
It is not only just one island where the albatrosses breed, but one specific region of that island.
The area is roughly equivalent to 2.7 square miles on which they can reproduce.
When they were first studied, there were a mere five breeding pairs found, but conservation efforts have helped bolster these numbers up to twenty five pairs – still not many at all!
Long Line Fishing
There is also the hazard presented by long line fishing, which kills tens of thousands of sea birds a year, including all types of albatrosses.
Here’s a video showing long line fishing in practice.
These fishing methods are employed primarily to catch tuna, but end up catching these poor albatrosses as well.
With some thought, this need not be the case, as bird scaring tactics have proven to assist, as well as weighting the bait to make sure that the hooks are out of reach at the depth that an albatross can dive.
But fishermen need to be persuaded to take these concerns seriously. It is certainly something to think about and perhaps to relay to any fishermen and women you know.
Then, there’s disease. Disease – notably avian cholera – also plays its part in the problems they face, as well as the bacterial infection erysipelas.
It is thought that these two diseases caused up to 74% of chick deaths, back in a study conducted in 2001.
All this chaos is happening before any other types of human impact comes into play.
Human impact comes into play mainly from pollution, with birds swallowing foreign objects that float on the sea or wash up on the shore, which becomes stuck in their gullets.
As mentioned, there are also threats from mice, pigs, dogs, rats and other species.
Next, we talk about the babies…
Amsterdam Albatross – Procreation
We’re back to the other problem that we touched upon earlier, which is the lack of procreation when it comes to these birds.
Perhaps it’s hardly surprising that there is a lack of sex and hence a lack of population growth among these birds, what with so many harsh conditions and threats lurking about.
Researchers are still studies the habits of these birds, in order to prevent their extinction simply from lack of being able to procreate on the island upon which they live.
Next, we explain how to spot Amsterdam Albatross.
It is very unlikely you will ever be in an opportunity to see one, but if you do, here is how you are going to know for sure it is the right bird.
Where To Spot an Amsterdam Albatross?
To be honest, your chances of spotting one of these rare birds is probably close to slim or none, considering where they live, in the middle of the ocean on a tiny island between Africa and Australia.
Unless you are around that area of the globe, out on the open water, you won’t have much luck. This is a pelagic bird, which spends nearly all its time out at sea, when it is not breeding.
Sightings, however, have been made in Australia, New Zealand and the southern part of the coastline in South Africa.
Watch these videos to watch the people that research these birds, and you’ll also see some of their unique features up close, and be able to distinguish one type of albatross from another.