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Behavior Albatrosses

Birds > Group of birds > Albatrosses
Behavior Albatrosses

Albatrosses cannot fly in calm weather, needing a good breeze to effect the soaring and tacking pattern of flight which enables large distances to be covered with little effort. Generally silent at sea, or in social resting or washing flocks. However, breeding colonies (especially close-nesting mollymawks) can be noisy with buzzing cries, clattering bills, and wailing screams accompanying a wide repertoire of body displays associated with recognition, threat, and courtship.

While there are common components of display throughout the family, the dances and wing displays of the northern Pacific albatrosses have no equivalent in the Southern Hemisphere. The most intense courtship display sequences are seen among adolescent pre-breeders, often in small groups or gams. Some displays are between similar sexes within such groups. Birds that develop a pair-bond remove themselves from the group to a potential nesting site where the displays become shorter, gentler and more mutual without the flamboyance of courtship. Some (e.g. the sooty albatrosses) indulge in courtship flying interspersed with synchronous calling from both sexes both on the ground and in the air. Albatrosses generally defend small spaces associated with the nest site or territory. Fighting is not a regular occurrence, with a reliance on threat displays and charging, but the hooked bill can damage bills and eyes. Chicks at the nest site clapper their bills to discourage intruders (e.g. predatory skuas, Catharacta), followed by regurgitation of oily stomach contents if approached too closely. Considerable time is spent in self and mutual preening of plumage by adults, and of the growing chick by the parents.

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