The Wandering Albatross

ngs0_8191[via Discovery]

Albatrosses are incredible birds. Such dignity soaring through the air, such absurdity when they crash-land and waddle about on the ground. They range from huge to extra jumbo, with the largest of the species having up to an 11 foot wingspan. Which is why, of course, having an albatross hanging from your neck a la Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner is an inconvenient thing:

mariner_albatross

You see, an albatross was following the ship, which is a good omen, but the mariner shot it down. He was forced to don it as a necklace, a penance for the bad luck he was sure to have caused.

Anyway, the birds are monogamous, can live more than forty years, and greet their partner with a silly clacky honk honk dance:

What’s more, the difficulty taking flight and clumsy landings seen in the animated movie, The Rescuers, are actually true to life. Though, more specifically, the young birds in this video are just learning to fly:

There’s a great segment about the waved albatrosses that nest on the Galapagos islands in the BBC documentary, Galapagos, which is, by the way,  narrated by Tilda Swinton. An English accent is pretty much a prerequisite for narrating nature shows.

I don’t believe I’ve ever come across an albatross out in the wild blue, but I did see a massive taxidermed specimen at the natural history museum in Oxford.

Class dismissed.

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