From South Georgia Island deep in the South Atlantic Ocean to the coast of South Australia is a daunting* distance to travel.
But one inquisitive* young albatross has flown it with ease, tracking almost 36,000km since it was tagged by British researchers in April.
The bird was one of 19 fledgling* black-browed albatrosses fitted with satellite transmitter trackers as part of a conservation project.
Going by the number 205649, the bird took a look at Western Australia before cruising the Great Australian Bight and the South Australian coast before turning back.
“The tracking has been even more successful than we hoped, and has revealed the movements of young black-browed albatrosses in unprecedented* detail,” said Richard Phillips, a lead researcher for the British Antarctic Survey.
Another albatross visited South America (the purple route), but most went to the coast of southern Africa, including one captured in a photograph by birdwatcher Estelle Smalberger, off Cape Town.
Professor Phillips said one adult had previously been tracked from South Georgia Island to Australia, using a geolocator*. It is thought to be rare behaviour, involving fewer than 5 per cent of the population on South Georgia Island, which is home to one of the world’s largest breeding colonies.
Black-browed albatross are listed by BirdLife Australia as vulnerable* in South Australia, along with NSW. The species is considered endangered in Tasmania but secure in Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria.
They are the most commonly seen albatross off Australia with small colonies on Heard Island and Macquarie Island, which are both in the Southern Ocean south of Australia.
Birds from the French-administered Kerguelen Islands, in the south Indian Ocean, also spend their non-breeding season in Australian waters.
“It is extremely rare for black-browed albatrosses to visit a colony other than the one from which they fledged*,” Prof Phillips said.
“While at sea, they spend most of the daylight on the wing, only landing to catch food.
“However, at night they spend several hours on the water probably because there is not enough light to detect prey.”
The British Antarctic Survey aims to provide evidence to slow the population decline in South Georgia, where numbers are estimated to have fallen from more than 100,000 breeding pairs in 1985 to 54,000 now.
daunting: seeming difficult, dangerous or worrying
fledgling: young bird that has grown enough to fly
unprecedented: never done or known to have happened before
geolocator: tracking device that shows where the wearer is in the world at any given time
vulnerable: a species considered to be at high risk of extinction in the wild
endangered: a species considered to be at very high risk of extinction in the wild
fledged: became able to fly
Which island did the albatross start its journey from?
How many kilometres was it tracked?
What type of albatross is it?
On which two islands off Australia are small colonies of this species of albatross found?
How many breeding pairs are thought to be on South Georgia Island today?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Map the black-browed albatross
On a world map:
Mark the locations where black-browed albatross colonies mentioned in this story are located.
Mark the states in Australia where black-browed albatrosses can be found and their endangered status in each area.
Show an approximate flight path of the specific birds mentioned in the story.
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Geography; Science
Black-browed albatross number 205649 was tagged as a “fledgling” – the name used to describe baby birds who have grown their feathers and are learning to fly. Expand your vocabulary by researching the correct baby terms for 10 different species of animals. Then use your words to quiz a friend. Tell them the baby animal name and see if they can guess which grown up animal it matches.
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science
Find the Facts
Create five questions that a partner can find the answers to in the article.
Try to add an inferring question for an extension task where they have to think about the answer, rather than simply find the fact – Why do you think …? or What does it mean …? type questions are good for inferring.
Remember to organise your work so it is neat and clear, number your questions and use the correct grammar and punctuation to ensure it makes sense.
Make an answer sheet so they can check their answers when they finish.