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February 28, 2003

Hitching a free ride

Wayward Laysan Albatross grabs a ride to Long Beach

San Pedro, CA

When Long Beach Harbor longshoreman Lawrence Posod boarded the Saga Crest, a cargo ship that arrived from Korea, what greeted him was not the typical seagull. “From my world travels I knew it was an albatross, although I didn’t know what species.” He knew the right thing to do.

Laysan Albatross. (Photo: Susan Kaveggia)

Posod threw his shirt over the bird to calm it and then got it into a box. Next, a call to the experts at International Bird Rescue Research Center for further instructions. Staff at the center in San Pedro, where Posod lives, told him to bring it in. So he shared his ride home with the wayward gooney bird.

Staff identified the bird as a Laysan Albatross, which make their home base about 3,000 miles away, in the Hawaiian Islands. With a wingspan of over seven feet, they are skilled fliers known to travel thousands of miles in search of food. Recently, scientists tracked a mother albatross who flew 38,706 miles in four months to feed her chick. Occasionally albatross hitch a ride on barges and cargo ships, which they may mistake for islands.

The bird was examined and found to be healthy. From past experience, Director Jay Holcomb feels it’s best to release wayward albatross out of sight of land and with the long water runway they need to get airborne again. After a few days of R&R in the center’s spacious pool, and some free fish, the bird will be released out at sea.

The population of approximately 600,000 breeding pairs spends their lives at sea, only coming on land to lay a single egg, every year or every other year. They don't begin breeding until eight years of age and then courtship lasts two years. Mates meet up to lay a single soda-can size egg, which they take turns incubating, sitting for as long as three weeks while the other feeds at sea. Albatross can live up to fifty years.

For more information about albatross and their travels, read Carl Safina’s in-depth article, “Albatross Wanderings,” which can be found on Audubon Magazine's online site.


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Media contact:

Karen Benzel, International Bird Rescue Research Center, karen@ibrrc.org

Office: (831) 622-7588


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