These remarkable birds court one another—dancing, circling, bowing, and calling—as they select their partner for life.

Waved Albatross map, NatureServe

It's called the Waved Albatross because of the wave-like pattern of feathers on adult birds. But the name fits for another reason: This is an epic flyer, gliding over the ocean waves for hours at a time.

This species is also well-known for its spectacular mating displays. Pairs of birds circle their bills, bow, clack their beaks, and raise their bills to make a hooting sound. The birds stay with their chosen mate for life.

Tropical Albatross and Tortoises

The Waved Albatross is the only member of its family that breeds in the tropics. Most are found on Española (Hood) Island in the Galápagos. Adults winter at sea off the coasts of Peru and Ecuador.

The birds prefer to nest in sparsely vegetated areas, which are usually kept grazed by native giant tortoises. But as tortoises have declined throughout the Galápagos, the albatrosses are forced to nest in ever-thicker scrub, which may entangle and trap chicks.

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Fisheries: Unintended Consequences

The species' tiny breeding range and recent population declines have earned the species a Critically Endangered designation from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature—and makes it an ABC priority.

Waved Albatross, Nick Athanas, Tropical Birding

Waved Albatross by Nick Athanas, Tropical Birding

Fisheries pose one of the biggest threats to this and other seabirds such as the Laysan Albatross. Longlines are a particular problem, attracting the birds to hooked bait intended for fish.

Thousands of the birds accidentally become “bycatch” when they are caught on fishing hooks and drowned. Overfishing—when people take more fish than is sustainable—is another problem, as it reduces the prey for seabirds.

Our Seabirds Program is working with partners to reduce these threats. For example, we advance fishing techniques that reduce bycatch and continue to urge the United States to sign onto the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses & Petrels. We've also produced a new fisheries bycatch reduction tool, which is available free of charge.

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