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Albatrosses fly non-stop and in sleep

The albatross, which is regarded as a good luck sign for sailors, can fly across miles, sometimes making non-stop trips around the southern half of the globe.
PTI | By IANS STORIES, Los Angeles
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2005 06:39 PM IST

The albatross, traditionally regarded as a sign of good luck for sailors, can fly across 25,000 miles, sometimes making non-stop trips around the southern half of the globe, according to a new study.

Until recently, little was known about where the massive seabirds -- which breed on islands north of Antarctica -- went during the non-breeding season, says a Los Angeles Times report quoting the reputed Science magazine.

British Antarctic Survey researchers have now traced their journey using long-endurance electronic leg monitors fitted to 22 grey-headed albatrosses.

According to the study, 12 of the birds were seen to have circled the globe at a lattitude just south of Africa and South America, with some birds even circling twice.

The birds, with wingspans of six and half feet, need little energy for flight. Albatrosses fly at night and sometimes seem to sleep on their wings, said biologist and lead researcher John Croxall.

While female albatrosses were more likely to stay closer to breeding grounds, where they arrive nearly three weeks before the males, many birds were seen travelling non-stop to feeding grounds in the Indian Ocean.

Some albatrosses flew nearly 600 miles a day, and one of them made a 13,000-mile trip in 46 days, said Croxall.

Albatrosses are among the world's most endangered birds, in part because an estimated 75,000 are snagged on hooks used by long-line fishing boats.

According to Croxall, the information on albatross migration could help identify areas where mitigation measures should be used to protect them.

One solution could be the weighting of fishing lines to keep baited hooks away from the birds, he said.

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