A bird species has been recently added to the official North American list kept by the American Ornithologists’ Union based on new records from Costa Rica. The waved albatross was documented for the first time in Costa Rican waters by a fisherman with a cell phone camera.
The fisherman, Keiner Berrocal, was near Cabo Blanco on the Nicoya Peninsula last Jan. 19 and came across the albatross. He showed the photos to local birding guides who without much difficulty identified the bird. A previous unsubstantiated sighting near Cocos Island was the only previous report from the area.
A typical adult waved albatross is 80-90 centimeters long and has a wingspan of up to 2.5 meters or eight feet. Despite this size, it weighs only three to four kilograms. Albatrosses are among the most spectacular fliers of the avian world, able to pass hours in windy conditions without flapping. The largest species have wingspans of up to 3.5 meters or 11 feet.
The species, Phoebastria irrorata, nests on just one island in the Galapagos, Española, with normal non-breeding dispersal to the Humbolt current waters of Perú and Ecuador. The population was estimated at about 34,000 in 2001 but is believed to have declined since. It is
classed as critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. This is based on its small population size with evidence of decline. The birds mate for life and have very low reproductive rates, making losses slow to replace.
All albatross species are vulnerable to being hooked by long-line fishing gear, given their tendency to grab anything edible when feeding. They then drown. Most of the world’s 20 or so albatross species inhabit the Southern Ocean, and all but two are considered endangered or threatened.