The albatross family includes the bird with the longest wingspan in the bird world, the wandering albatross, at an amazing 3.5 meters.
As ocean wanderers albatrosses can spend months out at sea riding the winds, almost never landing. They use very little energy in flight because their wings do not physically have to be held open by the bird. The are also famously long-lived with one famous Laysan albatross thought to be around 70 years old (and still alive in 2021).
My albatross encounters have been at sea in places such as New Zealand, South Africa and California, but mostly around Antarctica and the tip of South America. Crossing the infamous Drake Passage that separates South America from the Antarctic Peninsula is often not a very pleasant experience with high seas common. However the one experience that can make the sometimes monstrous seas less terrifying is the sight of albatrosses following the ship, as they so often do when it is windy.
My images taken on land are from South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, where it is possible to visit a number of albatross breeding colonies.
I have seen only a small number of the currently recognised 22 species, 21 of which find themselves on the IUCN list as either endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable. What a depressing statistic that is, with the most common reason for albatross death to be as by-catch in the fishing industry, and in particular long-lining.
Some albatrosses can be incredibly difficult to tell apart especially at sea as many have very different young to juvenile, then adult plumage. I am certainly no expert but it is great to learn from those that are and practice this skill.
Included below are shy, wandering, black-browed, black-footed, yellow-nosed, grey headed, light-mantled sooty and Southern royal albatrosses.