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albatross (ălˈbətrôs), common name for sea birds of the order of tube-nosed swimmers (Procellariiformes), which includes petrels, shearwaters, and fulmars. The wandering albatross, Diomedea exulans, made famous by Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, has a wingspread of from 10 to 12 ft (305–366 cm), although the wings are only about 9 in. (22.5 cm) wide. Because of their tapering wing design they excel at gliding and flying. Albatrosses eat mainly fish, floating carrion, and refuse. Most albatrosses are found in the South Pacific region, e.g., the wandering and the sooty species; a few, the black-footed (D. nigripes), the short-tailed, and the Laysan (D. immutabilis) albatrosses, regularly frequent the N Pacific.

Albatrosses have unique courtship behavior. They groan, scrape their bills, and dance about awkwardly, before pairing and mating occurs. They are colonial breeders, the female laying her single white egg in crude nests on the ground. Both sexes incubate the egg; incubation takes from two to three months. Albatrosses have few natural enemies, with the exception of humans. They were slaughtered for their feathers and wings in the 19th cent., and used in millinery and as “swansdown” pillow stuffings.

Albatrosses are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Procellariiformes, family Diomedeidae.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Diomedeidae), a family of nomadic seabirds belonging to the same order as the petrels. The body of the albatross is short and massive, sometimes weighing as much as 8 kg, and its wings are narrow and long, with a wingspread of as much as 425 cm. The bill is of medium size and hooked. The plumage is white with black or smoky coloring. There are two genera, which include 14 species. The birds are found in the tropics and subtropics of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans. In the USSR, two species—the short-tailed and the black-footed albatrosses—are encountered on migrations in the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea, and one species, the migratory dark-backed albatross, is found off the shores of Kamchatka. The short-tailed albatross, which until recently inhabited the Bonin Islands and certain other islands in large numbers, is close to extinction; it is found only onChichi-jima Island (24 birds as of 1960). Albatrosses swim and fly superbly and can soar even in stormy weather. The birds are active both during the day and at night. They return to land only during the breeding season. They nest in colonies, building their nests openly on the ground. There is one egg in a clutch, and both parents sit on it. The chick remains in the nest for six months. The birds feed on invertebrates and fish.


Ptitsy Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 2. Edited by G. P. Dement’ev and N. A. Gladkov. Moscow, 1951. Page 281.
Kozlova, E. V. Gagaroobraznye, trubkonosye. .. .Moscow-Leningrad, 1947. [Fauna SSSR, vol. 1, issue 3 (33).]


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(vertebrate zoology)
Any of the large, long-winged oceanic birds composing the family Diomedeidae of the order Procellariformes.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


killing it brings bad luck. [Br. Lit.: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in Norton, 597–610]


its presence portends good luck. [Br. Lit.: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in Norton, 597–610]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. any large oceanic bird of the genera Diomedea and Phoebetria, family Diomedeidae, of cool southern oceans: order Procellariiformes (petrels). They have long narrow wings and are noted for a powerful gliding flight
2. Golf a score of three strokes under par for a hole
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005