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Española Island in the Galapagos is the world’s only breeding site for the Waved Albatross. The birds arrive in the Galapagos around April, where they meet up with their life-long mates. Upon landing an elaborate courtship ritual is performed, in which the albatross will bow to one another, stand straight up bills wide open, honk, and then clack their bills together like sword-fighting. One egg is laid each year, and while we think they mate for life, through genetics scientists have discovered that the chicks are not always the offspring of the mated male—sometimes sneakier males get in a little action before the mated male arrives on island! The parents share responsibility for incubating the egg and feeding the chick once it is born. Strangely, the waved albatross in the Galapagos are known to roll their eggs while incubating. It is unclear why they do this.
Late in the year, lucky visitors may observe young waved albatrosses wobble to the cliff’s edge for their very first flight. It can be a tenuous launch into the air before they become expert flyers. The young albatrosses will remain at sea for about five years before returning to Española to seek a mate.
During the non-breeding season, the albatross leave Española and move mainly east and south-east into the waters of the Ecuadorian and Peruvian continental shelf. The main diet of the waved albatross consists of squid, fish, and crustaceans. This species is classified as critically endangered since it has an extremely small breeding range, essentially confined to one island.