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[Photos: Sophie Webb/NOAA]

Tracking Albatross Across the Pacific Ocean

Join researchers as they track Black-footed Albatross
across, up, and around the Pacific Ocean.

By Jennifer Stock
Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

This summer researchers from Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge and Hawaii Pacific University are investigating the use of the Pacific Ocean by a far ranging predator that soars over the waves, the Black-footed Albatross (Encyclopedia of the Sanctuary entry).

This charismatic seabird with a wingspan up to 6 feet breeds in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, and feeds up and around and across the Pacific Ocean spending lots of time in the West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary has been deemed “ an albatross hotspot” for north Pacific Albatross due to the strong oceanographic conditions, paired with unique seafloor bathymetry of Cordell Bank.

Join our Winged Ambassadors on the Race for a Clean Ocean by following the migration and study of these magnificent high seas navigators during August and September, 2008.

Albatross Naming Contest

Do you have the perfect name for some of the birds that will be tagged and tracked by satellite?

Enter a name for one of the eight tagged birds in the contest by July 30th, 2008. Entries should be emailed to, or mailed to PO Box 159 Olema, CA 94950, or faxed to 415 663-0315 and consist of a name and short explanation and contact information for the person/group/class proposing the name.

Names will be selected by Aug. 1, 2008, and winners will be notified.

To learn more or to track the birds, go to starting Aug. 3, 2008. Keep track of your favorite birds as they race daily. Keep track of who travels the farthest and fastest as they complete their summer vacation in California!

A few facts to inspire naming of Albatross for Race for a Clean Ocean

  • These birds travel thousands of miles for food and will eat squid, fish waste from fishing vessels, squid, pelagic crabs, and to their detriment plastic floating on the surface.
  • Albatross form a pair bond with one other albatross during breeding season, the rest of the year they don’t see their mate.
  • Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses are considered “endangered” and “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature due to their deadly interactions with longline fisheries and ingestion of plastic debris.
  • Very little is known about where albatross spend time between breeding season, hence the Race for the Clean Ocean study.
  • In 1882, US marine research vessel Albatross launched. The first vessel of its kind, it was steam driven and equipped with electric lights.
  • In 1968, Fleetwood Mac release their hit single “Albatross”
  • Albatross use a technique called “dynamic soaring”, utilizing the different wind speeds that occur at different heights above the surface of the ocean.
  • During winds that are below about 18 kph, albatross are forced to sit on the water or remain stranded at breeding sites, due to energy drain and air resistance that tires them.
  • Albatross need a “run-way” to take off from their breeding sites as they head into the wind, and on the water, will paddle like mad with their webbed feet to launch into the wind
  • Albatrosses have their own desalination plant on their beak. They have a salt excreting gland in their head, so when salt intake is so high that their kidneys can’t handle it, the excess salt is discharged from the gland on their beak.

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