Flight of the albatross: around the world in 46 days

An albatross has flown round the world in just 46 days, according to scientists who spent 18 months studying the birds' migratory behaviour.

An albatross has flown round the world in just 46 days, according to scientists who spent 18 months studying the birds' migratory behaviour.

Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey tracked the movements of 22 grey-headed albatrosses to shed light on where they go in the winter months that they spend away from their breeding colonies off the coast of South Georgia in the south Atlantic.

Some of the birds - mostly females - travelled a relatively modest few thousand miles out to open sea but some of the males went much further, and several made a complete circumpolar navigation. One male albatross flew more than 22,000 kilometres (13,670 miles) around the southern hemisphere in just 46 days. Three birds were tracked flying around the world twice in 18 months.

Albatrosses are very long-lived - some are more than 40 years old - but they are vulnerable to being trapped and drowned in lines used by fishing trawlers.

Professor John Coxall, who led the study, said the findings would help conservationists trying to protect the 19 out of 21 sub-species of the albatross family that are included on the official "red list" of endangered species.

"By understanding where these birds go when they're not breeding, we can brief governments and fishing commissions to impose stricter measures capable of reducing the number of birds killed by between 75 and 95 per cent, depending on the type of fishery," Professor Coxall said. "The right combination of measures will drastically reduce deaths."

The albatrosses in the study had a small device strapped to their legs that continuously monitored the local time of sunrise and sunset. Scientists were able to estimate the position of the bird to within about 200km.

Before this study there was no information about the wintering habits of the grey-headed albatross. Richard Phillips, a member of the study team, said: "We had no idea that so many birds would go so far, that there would be large differences between individuals and that some would even go circumpolar."

Albatrosses often sleep by landing on open water during the night and they can spend many months at sea without having to return to dry land, he said.

The scientists tagged 47 grey-headed albatrosses but only managed to retrieve data from 22 devices, which weigh about 9 grams and do not interfere with the bird's movements, Dr Phillips said.

Grey-headed albatrosses have a wingspan of 220 centimetres (7ft 3ins). They raise one chick every two years, and it takes about 140 days before the chick is strong enough to fly.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project