As the dry season arrives to the islands, albatrosses also arrive in full swing
Galapagos Islands are probably one of the best places on Earth to appreciate the big things and the small things in full perspective. Perhaps the tropical geographical setting of the islands, mixed with a rather dry weather for tropical standards is what makes the islands truly special. It is, however, quite special to witness the arrival of the first days of the dry season matching the arrival of the Galapagos Albatross on Española (Hood) Island.
What is an Albatross anyway? Why in Galápagos? Why only on Española (Hood) Island?
Galapagos Albatross is the largest bird found on the islands, although it is not the largest of all albatross species. This sea bird is a member of the Procellariformes group (families of this order include albatrosses, petrels, and shearwaters), with 125 species found all over the planet. Albatrosses are found in extreme latitudes, and finding one right at the Equator makes it quite a unique species. Furthermore, finding one species nesting exclusively on just one island of the Galápagos Archipelago makes it even more unique.
Galapagos Albatross is a pelagic feeder (meaning it travels far distances to find food), and a seasonal traveler outside of the islands. When the hot season is back and the islands develop a beautiful green coat with warm ocean temperature around, albatrosses take a break and follow the cool waters back to southern latitudes, and get to spend about 3 months in the open ocean with no landing sites at all. As the southeast trade winds return in mid-late April, these large sea birds make their journey back and return to Española (Hood) Island. This is home for them, and this is the only island they call home.
Perhaps, the most elaborate courtship you’ll ever see!
Once back home, males anxiously wait for females to arrive, and the idea is to recognize each other by the pattern of courtship, bill moves, wings display, sounds, etc. In an anthropomorphic way, it is like recognizing your partner few months later by the pattern of dancing, moves, swings, voice, and style. All happening in just one little tiny island of the tropics! Elaborate courtship dances can be seen from April to June, followed by egg laying of a large single egg, and then rearing of chicks until late December. Young ones need to be ready to fly out on time, because otherwise, the next hot season will turn Española Island into a true jungle where this large bird is simply incapable of moving around, and of course finding plenty of food in the ocean.
Galapagos Albatross are very key members of the BIG15 animal list of the Galapagos Islands, and itineraries for exploring Española (Hood) Island are available in all of our three expedition vessels: Yacht La Pinta, Santa CruzII, and Yacht Isabela II.