Albatrosses can fly more than 25,000 miles in the 18 months between their breeding seasons, sometimes making nearly nonstop trips around the southern half of the globe, according to a new study.
The large and graceful seabirds breed on islands north of Antarctica, but little was known previously about where they went during the off season.
Researchers used long-lived electronic leg monitors to track 22 gray-headed albatrosses. They found that 12 of the birds circled the globe at a latitude just south of the southern tips of South America and Africa. Some circled twice.
One bird made the trip of more than 13,000 miles in just 46 days, said John Croxall, the British Antarctic Survey biologist who led the research published this week in the journal Science.
Other birds traveled nonstop to feeding grounds in the Indian Ocean.
Female birds were more likely to stay closer to the breeding grounds, where they must arrive up to three weeks before males, Croxall said.
The birds, with wingspans of 6 1/2 feet, use little energy to fly. They fly at night and sometimes seem to sleep on the wing, Croxall said.
Albatrosses are some of the world's most threatened birds, in part because about 75,000 are snagged each year on hooks used by long-line fishing boats, Croxall said.
He said information on albatross migration could help identify areas where mitigation measures should be used to protect the birds.
One possibility is using weighted fishing lines to keep baited hooks away from the birds, he said.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.