Main content

Why the albatross is master of the skies

The albatross is a graceful, effortless glider. Its huge wings can keep it aloft for days without flapping.

Here are seven reasons why the birds are masters of the skies:

1. The wandering albatross is a feathered giant having the longest wingspan of any bird, at up to 3.5m (11ft)!

2. Albatrosses can travel at speeds of up to 140km/h.

3. They are so efficient in their flying technique that they spend more energy in landing and take-off than in flying.

4. The wandering albatross can glide for several hundred miles without a single wing flap - a remarkable feat that no other flying creature is capable of matching.

They can go for days without flapping their wings

The bird has inspired not only awe but a spiritual response from many of us.

The albatross’s technique is called 'dynamic soaring'. They are able to face the wind and use it to fly upwards. Then they’ll shift and dip back down towards the ocean, catching another skyward draft moments later. By repeating this technique, they can cover enormous distances with very little effort.

Copying the strategy might help humans design more fuel-efficient aircraft.

5. Some birds are known to have circumnavigated the Southern Ocean three times in a single year: that’s more than 120,000km.

6. The birds are rarely seen on land. They gather only to breed when they form large colonies on remote islands.

7. Young albatrosses first fly aged between three to ten months, depending on the species, but then leave land behind for around five to ten years until they reach sexual maturity.