Top ten animals – #4, Wandering Albatross

Having already had the world’s largest turtle and the world’s longest fish, I’m in danger of coming across as a complete size queen, because now we have the Wandering Albatross, Diomedea exulans, which has the longest wingspan of any bird – one was measured at 11′ 10″. This photo is from 70 South:

Actually, though, it’s not just about the size – though that’s certainly a part of the appeal. There are just certain birds that catch your imagination. When I went birding in South America, the one thing I most wanted to see, and was most excited when I did see, was a toucan. Somehow they seemed like the absolute embodiment of the exotic, and to see them wild instead of in a cage was magical. Presumably someone else might have the same feeling about macaws, or quetzals, or scarlet ibis, but for me it was toucans.

Albatrosses have a similar appeal for me; breeding on little rocky islands in the southern oceans and spending most of their lives at sea, they are the epitome of wildness. I’d be happy to see any of them, but if I’m going to pick one, it has to be Wandering Albatross, the most albatrossy of all.

And they have that whole Coleridge thing going for them as well, of course.

2 Comments

  1. 27 January 2006 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Those wings look like whales’ tails.

  2. Harry
    28 January 2006 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    They do a bit, don’t they. Apparently they get whiter as they get older, so presumably the picture is a relatively young one. Fabulous things.

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