Albatrosses and Chickens:  Odd Examples of Avian Self-Defense

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Matthew 23:37
protective mother hen with chicks [International English Bible photo credit]

The Lord Jesus Christ once compared Himself, as a caring refuge to those who are at risk of mortal danger, to a poultry hen who protects her baby chicks with her own body. Many might under-estimate the toughness of a mother hen, when protecting her chicks, including one ill-fated fox noted below. But ,before considering such protective hens, an odd example of albatross self-defense is given below.

Self-defense can be asserted in many ways, but Southern Ocean albatrosses(1),(2) and French chickens(3)  provide odd illustrations of the old saying that “truth is sometimes stranger than fiction”.

WANDERING ALBATROSS showing wingspan ( > 9 feet ), Jaap Vink photo credit

First, the Wandering Albatross is an unintentional example—this is the same wide-winged bird that ICR recently reported as harnessing the wild winds that flow above the ocean waves near Antarctica.(4) Also, this illustration involves recklessly greedy and wasteful overfishing in international waters— a perennial problem previously reported by ICR.(5),(6)    After that, an illustration of chicken self-defense toughness.

On behalf of BBC News, Samantha Patrick reported on her satellite-related data-logging albatrosses, who spy on ocean-faring fish-poaching pirates who, ironically, are routinely guilty of harming albatrosses as by-catch casualties.(1)  The spy-like surveillance program began, she says, as an attempt to track the albatrosses who were vulnerable to fishing bycatch risks in the open ocean.

SEABIRDS congregating at fishing nets [Alessandro de Maddalena/Shutterstock image credit]

So many of these birds were dying as a result of getting caught in fishing lines that researchers started studying the overlap between albatrosses and fishing boats. Understanding where the birds came into contact with fisheries, and which birds followed boats the most, helped explain which parts of the population were most at risk of bycatch. It’s possible to map the distribution of boats using data transmitted from onboard monitoring systems, but these records are often only available around land and rarely in real time. … To try another approach, my colleagues and I developed data loggers that could be attached to an albatross. The logger detects the radar of boats, collecting information on where boats are in real time. The loggers took years to perfect and I can still remember the excitement of getting the first one back that had successfully detected a boat’s radar.(1)

[see Patrick cite below]

The high-tech surveillance provided by these wide-winged investigators enables treaty enforcers to locate those fishing boats who furtively poach in international waters, and who often recklessly endangering seabirds as by-catch casualties.

The wandering albatross can fly 10,000 km in a month, making these tireless birds ideal agents to catch the very same fish pirates that are killing albatrosses.  … They can fly 8.5 million kilometres (5.2 million miles) during their lifetimes – the equivalent of flying to the Moon and back more than 10 times. Their 3.5m wingspan is the same length as a small car and they can weigh as much as 24 puffins. Their body shape means they can effortlessly glide over the ocean waves, flying in some of the strongest winds on Earth. Now researchers have found that these seabirds may have promising careers in the fight against overfishing.(1)

[see Patrick cite below]

New technological approaches to improving remote surveillance of the oceans are necessary if we are to implement effective conservation. Of particular concern is locating nondeclared and illegal fisheries that dramatically impact oceanic ecosystems. Here, we demonstrate that animal-borne, satellite-relayed data loggers both detected and localized fishing vessels over large oceanic sectors. Attraction of albatrosses to fishing vessels [resulted in] … high proportions of nondeclared fishing vessels operating in international waters, as well as in some remote national seas. Our results demonstrate the potential of using animals as Ocean Sentinels for operational conservation.(2)

[see Weimerskirch cite below]
WANDERING ALBATROSS in flight [Critter Science photo credit]

So, how are albatrosses able to acts as surveillance spies, and as informants, to fishing quota treaty-enforcing authorities?  It wasn’t planned by the albatrosses. In fact, it wasn’t originally planned by the humans, either.

The discovery came about by accident when researchers at the Centre d’études biologiques de Chizé in France were investigating bycatch in fishing lines and nets – when fishers unintentionally snare animals they weren’t trying to catch, like albatrosses.  …  In the past few decades, countries implemented cross-border policies to directly address the causes of bycatch, particularly for albatroses and petrels, which have been severely affected. With onboard human observers or electronic devices tracking activity, albatross bycatch rates have fallen dramatically on monitored vessels.  But what about illegal fishing boats? Military vessels and aircraft patrol the Southern Ocean looking for criminal fishers, but there are no observers or monitoring to ensure these boats are using methods to protect albatrosses, and without these, we know that bycatch rates are very high.(1)

[see Patrick cite below]

Eventually the idea of harnessing albatrosses with high-tech sensors was thought of, originally as a way to track the movements of the albatrosses themselves. However, when the albatrosses gave information on undocumented fishing boats, making it much easier to locate and catch poachers, the playing field of the poaching-at-sea industry was suddenly tilted in favor of law enforcement.

Boats that are legally fishing are generally registered and licensed, and so must adhere to laws regarding where and when they fish, and what and how much they can catch. Monitoring fishery activity around land masses is one thing, but beyond these limits, the open ocean is deemed international waters and doesn’t come under the jurisdiction of a single nation. Patrolling this enormous area by ship or air is rarely effective.  But what if there were 100 officers that could cover 10,000km each in a 30-day stretch? Meet the albatross ocean sentinels who patrol the seas for illegal fishers. Wandering albatrosses breed on remote islands around Antarctica. These are usually only accessible by boat, and researchers must brave the “furious 50s” of the Southern Ocean – powerful winds found between the latitudes of 50 and 60 degrees – to get there, across some of the roughest seas in the world.(1)

[see Patrick cite below]
WANDERING ALBATROSS chick on island coast [Alain Ricci / Wikimedia Commons photo credit]

It wasn’t long before it was discovered that some of the boats were fishing without disclosing their identities, i.e., illegally—they did not want to be recognized for who they really were.

But when we combined the data collected by the loggers with a global map, we could see the location of all boats with an active Automatic Identification System (AIS). This radar allows vessels to detect each other, preventing collisions. Our study found that over 20% of boats within French waters didn’t have their AIS on, rising to 35% in international waters. Since the AIS is intended to keep vessels safe, it’s likely that these vessels operating without it in international waters were doing so to avoid detection, and so could be fishing illegally.(1)

[see Patrick cite below]

So now the surveilling albatrosses can report the radar of undocumented fishing boats, with that information being relayed on to law-enforcement authorities who then know where to find the poachers.


As a result, the albatross data had unintentionally revealed the potential extent and scale of illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean. It’s difficult to imagine a human patrol boat being able to cover enough area to efficiently track illegal fisheries. But each wandering albatross could potentially cover the same area of ocean as a boat, and when its logger detects a fishing boat with its AIS turned off, it can relay that information to the authorities, who can alert nearby vessels to investigate. … This [can] help conserve fish stocks, protect albatrosses and other seabirds, and manage the marine ecosystem as a whole. As ocean sentinels, it turns out that albatrosses have a unique ability to collect the data needed for their own conservation.(1)

[see Patrick cite below]

So the Wandering Albatross, fitted with satellite-relayed data loggers, exemplify self-defense by unintentionally calling the law when they spot (and report) undocumented fish poachers at sea—who are the same poachers famous for carelessly killing albatrosses as bycatch.

But what about chickens? How can they illustrate self-defense?

Consider the proverbial fox entrusted with guarding the henhouse.  Except in one French henhouse, however, where the results were quite unexpected.

“Chickens kill fox . . . ” [ photo credit]

Chickens in a poultry farm in northwest France are suspected of killing a fox who tried to sneak into their coop.(3)

[see “The Local — France” cite below]

Yes, you read that right—it was the chickens who killed the home-invading fox.

The young predator [fox] is thought to have entered the henhouse at an agricultural school at dusk last week and become trapped inside by light-controlled automatic hatch doors that close when the sun goes down. Students at Le Gros Chene school in Brittany discovered the body of the animal when making their rounds to check on the chickens the following morning. “There, in the corner, we found this dead fox,” Pascal Daniel, head of farming at the school, [reported]. “There was a herd instinct and they attacked him with their beaks.”(3)

[see “The Local — France” cite below]

So, being “hen-pecked” can be fatal! Wow! Chickens in Brittany are tough—respect their space—they do defend themselves. It seems that even in the world of nature, after the Fall, self-defense must be practiced, one way or another. 

And, in the case of God’s wonderful Wandering Albatrosses(4), you might say that the albatrosses are now “appealing to Caesar” (as Paul did in Acts 25:10-11), defensively, without even knowing it!(7)

WANDERING ALBATROS pair [Samantha Patrick photo credit]


  1. Patrick, S. 2020. The Albatrosses who Catch Pirates on the High Seas. BBC News (July 8, 2020), posted at .
  2. Weimerskirch, H., J. Collet, A. Corbeau, et al. 2020. Ocean Sentinel Albatrosses Locate Illegal Vessels and Provide the First Estimate of the Extent of Nondeclared Fishing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (February 11, 2020), posted at .  
  3. Staff writer. 2019. Furious French Chickens Team Up to Henpeck Fox to Death. The Local – France (March 13, 2019), posted at .
  4. Johnson, J. J. S. 2020. Wandering Albatross; Wide Wings on the Winds. Creation Science Update (July 2, 2020), posted at .
  5. The North Atlantic Ocean has been lamentably depleted of its codfish, due to overfishing promoted by the evolution-friendly “science” teaching of Thomas Huxley, Charles Darwin’s ally.  See Thomas, B. 2009. Huxley Error Led to Cod Calamity. Acts & Facts. 38(8):17, posted at .
  6. The North Pacific Ocean’s populations of Alaska Pollock have been shrinking dramatically, due to fraudulent under-reporting of pollock catch statistics—not due to “global warming”.  See Johnson, J. J. S. 2018. Something Fishy about Global Warming Claims. Acts & Facts. 47(3):21, posted at .
  7. When the apostle Paul appealed to Caesar he was acting in self-defense, with the potential of a counterattack, because if Caesar became angry at Pauls’ accusers—a foreseeable scenario—Caesar could rule that the false accusers be put to death. See Acts 25:9-12.  Self-defense is also illustrated in Esther 8:11 and 9:1-22.

Sunday Inspiration – Austral Storm Petrels and Albatrosses

Grey-backed Storm Petrel (Garrodia nereis) ©WikiC

“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.” (Genesis 1:20 KJV)

Our new Order, the Procellariiformes has four Families. Today, the Oceanitidae – Austral Storm Petrels and the Diomedeidae – Albatrosses are presented. There are 30 species in these two families. The next two families have a combined 117 members so we will be in this Procellariiformes Order for several weeks.

Oceanitidae – Austral Storm Petrels

Austral storm petrels, or southern storm petrels, are seabirds in the family Oceanitidae, part of the order Procellariiformes. These smallest of seabirds feed on planktonic crustaceans and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering. Their flight is fluttering and sometimes bat-like.

Austral storm petrels have a cosmopolitan distribution, being found in all oceans, although only Wilson’s storm-petrels are found in the northern hemisphere. They are almost all strictly pelagic, coming to land only when breeding.

White-faced Storm Petrel (Pelagodroma marina) ©WikiC

Austral Storm Petrels are the smallest of all the seabirds, ranging in size from 15–26 cm in length. There are two body shapes in the family; the austral storm petrels have short wings, square tails, elongated skulls, and long legs. The legs of all storm petrels are proportionally longer than those of other Procellariiformes, but they are very weak and unable to support the bird’s weight for more than a few steps.

Like many seabirds, storm petrels will associate with other species of seabird and marine mammal species in order to help obtain food. It is theorized that they benefit from the actions of diving predators such as seals and penguins which push prey up towards the surface while hunting, allowing the surface feeding storm petrels to reach them.

Diomedeidae – Albatrosses

Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) by Ian

Albatrosses, of the biological family Diomedeidae, are large seabirds allied to the procellariids, storm petrels and diving petrels in the order Procellariiformes (the tubenoses). They range widely in the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific. They are absent from the North Atlantic, although fossil remains show they once occurred there and occasional vagrants are found. Albatrosses are among the largest of flying birds, and the great albatrosses (genus Diomedea) have the largest wingspans of any extant birds, reaching up to 3.7 metres (12 feet). The albatrosses are usually regarded as falling into four genera, but there is disagreement over the number of species.

Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) Oldest Albartos named Wisdom ©EarthSky

Albatrosses are highly efficient in the air, using dynamic soaring and slope soaring to cover great distances with little exertion. They feed on squid, fish and krill by either scavenging, surface seizing or diving. Albatrosses are colonial, nesting for the most part on remote oceanic islands, often with several species nesting together. Pair bonds between males and females form over several years, with the use of “ritualised dances”, and will last for the life of the pair. A breeding season can take over a year from laying to fledging, with a single egg laid in each breeding attempt. A Laysan albatross, named Wisdom, on Midway Island is recognised as the oldest wild bird in the world; she was first banded in 1956 by Chandler Robbins.

[Information from Wikipedia, with editing]

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“As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.” (Isaiah 31:5 KJV)

“I Am Determined to Live for the King” ~ Three-Plus-One Quartet – Faith Baptist


More Sunday Inspirations

Oceanitidae – Austral Storm Petrels

Diomedeidae – Albatrosses

Laysan albatross, named Wisdom


“A” is for Avocet and Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1

“A” is for Avocet and Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1

James J. S. Johnson

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana) by Jim Fenton

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana) by Jim Fenton

“A” is for Avocets, Albatrosses, Accipiters, and Alcids (including Auklets and the Atlantic Puffin), — plus Antbirds and a few other birds omitted here. This study now bravely begins an alphabet-based series on birds, starting with a quick introduction to 4 types of birds that start with the letter “A”   –    followed by a few observations of alphabetic patterns in Scripture (exhibited initially by Psalm 119:1-8)   –   then followed by specific information on avocets, albatrosses, accipiters, and alcids. Due to the length of this review, the “A” birds (just mentioned) will be considered in two parts: Part 1, Avocets and Albatrosses, — and Part 2 (in the near future, God willing), Accipiter hawks and Alcids.

Red-necked Avocets ©WikiC

Red-necked Avocet at shore ©WikiC

Avocets” are shorebirds, known for wading into the salty or brackish tidewaters, on skinny stilt-like legs, picking at food with thin upward-curving (the opposite of “decurved”) bills.  Avocets include American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), Red-necked Avocet (Recurvirostra novaehollandiae), and Andean Avocet (Recurvirostra andina).

Avocets are often grouped with other shorebirds that have similar morphology (shape), who occupy similar eco-niches (similar ecological contexts) and have somewhat similar eating habits – the fancy word for that category of shorebirds is “Recurvirostrids” – a group that includes avocets and stilts.  (For a listing on these shorebirds, with photographs, see Lee’s “Recurvirostridae: Stilts, Avocets

Later, in this article, one avocet will receive special attention, the American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana).

Black-browed Albatross launching into flight from the sea

Black-browed Albatross launching into flight from the sea

[Black-browed Albatross, launching into flight from the sea]

Albatross” is a large tube-nosed seabird type  –  sometimes called “gooney birds” — typically ranging over open-ocean waters, that includes about 20 different species, such as Snowy Albatross (Diomedea exulans, a/k/a Wandering Albatross or White-winged Albatross), Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes), Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata, a/k/a Grey-mantled Albatross), the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (Thalassarche chlororhynchos), Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis), Steller’s Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus, a/k/a Short-tailed Albatross, known for eating juvenile squid), etc.

Regarding albatrosses as a “family” group, with photographs of more than 20 species of albatrosses, see Lee’s “Diomedeidae: Albatrosses.  “Gooney birds” are obviously designed by flying over oceans.  However, on land they can ambulate as they need to, although they may appear “goofy” on shore, as they appear to hobble (or waddle) along, upon their large webbed feet. Yet they live for many decades (e.g., up to 60 years!), unless their natural lives are cut short by a predator.

Albatross (Diomedea) ©Unknown from Siliconvalley


Albatross Study from Ian Montgomery

Albatross Study from Ian Montgomery

For examples of albatross studies, provided by Australian ornithologist Ian Montgomery, see “Ian’s Bird of the Week: Royal Albatross”,  —  and “Ian’s Stamp of the Week: Antipodean Albatross”,   —  and “Ian’s Bird of the Week: Light-mantled Albatross”,  — and “Ian’s Bird of the Week: Campbell / Black-browed AlbatrossLater, in this article, one albatross will receive special attention, Steller’s Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus).


Using an alphabet, to organize a sequence of information, has Biblical precedent.  The perfect example is the “acrostic” pattern of Psalm 119, the longest psalm (having 176 verses!), which has 22 sections (comprised of 8 verses per section), representing the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (Compare that to English, which has 26 alphabet letters, and Norwegian, which has 29 alphabet letters.)

The sentences in each section start with the same Hebrew  letter, so Verses 1-8 start with ALEPH, Verses 9-16 start with BETH, Verse 17-24 start with GIMEL, and so forth.  Here are the first 8 verses in Psalm 119, each sentence of which starts with ALEPH  [an inaudible guttural consonant, usually transliterated into English as an apostrophe that looks like a backwards C = ’ , i.e., like a closed single-quotation mark].  ALEPH is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet, so each verse literally starts with that letter as the first letter in the first word (although the first Hebrew word may be differently placed in the English translation’s sentence):

Alphabet in Hebrew of Psalm 119

Blessed [’asherê] are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.

Blessed [’asherê] are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart.

Yea [’aph], they also do no iniquity: they walk in His ways.

Thou [’atah] hast commanded us to keep Thy precepts diligently.

O-that [’aḥalai] my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes!

Then [’az] shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all Thy commandments.

I-will-praise-thee [’ôdekâ] with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned Thy righteous judgments.

Thy-statutes [’et-uqqekâ] I will keep; O forsake me not utterly.

Interestingly, Verses 1-3 are narrated in the third person (referring to God as “He”, “Him”, etc.), but Verses 4-8 are addressed to God (“Thou”, “Thy”, “Thee”) in the second person.  Certainly the psalmist appreciates God’s truth as He has  kindly and authoritatively provided it unto His favorite creature, Adam’s race!

Most English Bibles show how the Hebrew alphabet is used to divide Psalm 119 into those 22 sections, although it requires looking at the Hebrew text to see how this was actually done.  Psalm 119 is not the only acrostic psalm – there are others (see Psalms 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 145).  In fact, there is a hidden-in-plain-view message in Psalm 145, which deliberately omits the Hebrew letter nûn (that matches our “N”), but that unusual usage of an intentionally incomplete acrostic must wait another day to be explained.

“In the common form of acrostic found in Old Testament Poetry, each line or stanza begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in order. This literary form may have been intended as an aid to memory, but more likely it was a poetic way of saying that a total coverage of the subject was being offered — as we would say, ‘from A to Z.’ Acrostics occur in Psalms 111 and 112, where each letter begins a line; in Psalms 25, 34, and 145, where each letter begins a half-verse; in Psalm 37, Proverbs 31:10-31, and Lamentations 1, 2, and 4, where each letter begins a whole verse; and in Lamentations 3, where each letter begins three verses. Psalm 119 is the most elaborate demonstration of the acrostic method where, in each section of eight verses, the same opening letter is used, and the twenty-two sections of the psalm move through the Hebrew alphabet, letter after letter.” [Quoting J. Alec Motyer, “Acrostic”, in The New International Dictionary of the Bible (Zondervan, 1987), page 12.]

Hebrew Alphabet Acrostic of Psalm 119 ©Zondervan

Hebrew Alphabet Acrostic of Psalm 119 ©Zondervan

Psalm 119 is all about God’s revelation of truth – especially truth about Himself – to mankind (in a comprehensive “A to Z” panorama).  The most important revelation of truth that God has given to us, and the most authoritative form of truth we have, is the Holy Bible – the Scriptures.  (In fact, it appears that Scripture is referred to 176 times within Psalm 119, since 6 verses twice allude to Scriptures.)  Accordingly, Psalm 119 is dominated by references to the Scriptures – using terms like “the law of the LORD”, “Thy Word”, “Thy commandments”, “Thy testimonies”, “Thy statutes”, “Thy judgments”, etc.

Psalm 119 Study Photo

Psalm 119 Study Photo

Of the 176 verses in Psalm 119 there appear to be only 6 verses (actually, there are only 5 exceptions) that omit a direct reference to the Scriptures:   Verses 3, 37, 90, 91, 122, and 132.  Yet, even so, each (of those “exceptions”) refers to some form of God’s general or special revelation:  “His ways” and “Thy way” (in Verses 3 & 37, yet God’s ways are only known to us by His creation, His Word, His incarnation, and His providences, all of which are forms of God revealing truth to us); “Thy faithfulness” (in Verse 90, yet God’s faithfulness is only known to us by His creation, His Word, His incarnation, and His providences, all of which are forms of God revealing truth to us); “Thy ordinances” (in Verse 91, is not really an exception, because it translates for mishpat, a Hebrew noun repeatedly translated as “judgment(s)”, elsewhere in Psalm 119); “surety” (in Verse 122, is the Hebrew verb ‘arōbh, functioning as a noun, yet the concept of God as our “surety” is comparable to His “faithfulness”, noted in Verse 90); and “Thy name” (shemekâ, in Verse 132, which divine name itself reveals God’s character (in the Old Testament Hebrew name for God) as the eternal Being, YHWH, as is emphasized in Exodus 3:14 and further in John 8:58).

Regarding God’s name, the incarnation has revealed God to us as Emmanuel (“God with us”), the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:9-11).  Accordingly, by His name as the incarnate God (i.e., Jesus the Christ), God’s name is necessarily implied even by how we count time on Earth, every time we refer to what year it is, — because the years are denominated as “B.C.” (“before Christ”) and “A.D.” (“anno Domini= “year of our Lord [Jesus Christ]”), ubiquitously reminding us that God has revealed Himself, on Earth, via Christ’s incarnation and earthly ministry!).

Eight Synonyms of Gods Word in Psalm 119

Dusty Bible

In short, Psalm 119 teaches that God reveals truth, and we should expect that we learn 97% of it from the Holy Bible!  (Romans chapter 1 emphasizes that we are taught, by the physical creation, about God’s majestic power and glorious wisdom, and that the message of God’s creation is so strong that to ignore it is to do so “without excuse”.)  Also, since the Hebrew letter ALEPH is derived from the Hebrew word for “ox” (which exemplifies might), it is noteworthy that the first 8 verses of Psalm 119 emphasize who powerfully God’s Word strengthens us for holy living (see Hebrews 4:12).

Now back to the “A” birds (Part 1), Avocets and Albatrosses.

American Avocet - Family group visiting lentic shore

American Avocet – Family group visiting lentic shore

The American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), like many shorebirds, thrives upon the available edibles on beaches swept back-and-forth by coastal tidewaters.  This dignified shorebird, with its long skinny bill, long skinny legs, and its cinnamon-to-salmon summer plumage (on its head and neck), has already been described by ornithologist Lee Dusing – see “Birds, Volume 2, #1: The American Avocet.

The breeding range of the American Avocet includes most of the states in the western half of America’s “lower 48” states, plus some of western inland Canada (southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, and part of Manitoba), with the breeding range situated mostly in Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, southern Idaho, western Oregon, northern Utah, New Mexico, far western Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle.  Some breeding avocets have also been sighted in Minnesota.

Avocets migrate south for the winter, either to Florida or to Mexico.  Their migratory passage travels occur in between their wintering and breeding ranges, covering large parts of Texas, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho.

Avocets, being shorebirds, like to eat fish that venture close enough to the shoreline to get caught in the quick bill of an avocet.

Do not think that avocets are merely passive, waiting for food to swim or drift by where they stand, in the shallow water of a pond or lake.

Avocets poke their long stick-like bills into the water, then flex their bills back and forth in the water, stirring the water so that nearby creatures – such as water bugs and crustaceans – are agitated into motion that reveals their presence.   Seeing such creatures reactively move, avocets use their long bills to clamp down on an entrée, such as a small fish!

Avocets also enjoy eating aquatic plants (especially their nutritious seeds) that emerge above the shoreline’s water surface.

American Avocet

American Avocet “Gone fishin” – photo by Ron Dudley

Now for another “A” bird:  the Albatross, specifically Steller’s Albatross, a shorebird that has been listed as “endangered” since AD2000.

The Steller’s Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus, a/k/a Short-tailed Albatross, formerly known taxonomically as Diomeda albatrus) is an North Pacific Ocean-ranging albatross.  This albatross was originally named for the 18th century (AD) German naturalist Georg Steller, for whom the Steller’s Jay is also named.  Georg Steller is likewise the namesake of Steller’s Eider and Steller’s Sea Eagle (and even of two pinniped marine mammals, the Steller’s Sea Lion and the now-extinct Steller’s Sea Cow).  Regarding Georg Steller’s scientific career and “stellar” accomplishments (pardon the pun), see Steller’s Jay: A Lesson in Choosing What Is Valuable.

Steller’s Albatross ©U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service describes the Steller’s Albatross as follows:

“With a wingspan of over 2 meters (over 7 feet), the short-tailed albatross is the largest seabird in the North Pacific. Its long, narrow wings are adapted to soaring low over the ocean. It is best distinguished from other albatrosses by its large, bubblegum-pink bill. Young birds also have the large pink bill, but their feathers are dark chocolate brown, gradually turning white as the bird ages. Adults have an entirely white back, white or light gold head and back of neck, and black and white wings. …

Historically, millions of short-tailed albatrosses bred in the western North Pacific on several islands south of the main islands of Japan. Only two breeding colonies remain active today: Torishima Island and Minami-kojima Island, Japan. In addition, a single nest was recently found on Yomejima Island of the Ogasawara Island group in Japan. Single nests also occasionally occur on Midway Island, HI. Short-tailed albatrosses forage widely across the temperate and subarctic North Pacific, and can be seen in the Gulf of Alaska, along the Aleutian Islands, and in the Bering Sea. The world population is currently estimated to be about 1200 birds and is increasing. …

Like many seabirds, short-tailed albatrosses are slow to reproduce and are long-lived, with some known to be over 40 years old. They begin breeding at about 7 or 8 years, and mate for life. Short-tailed albatrosses nest on sloping grassy terraces on two rugged, isolated, windswept islands in Japan. Pairs lay a single egg each year in October or November. Eggs hatch in late December through early January. Chicks remain near the nest for about 5 months, fledging in June. After breeding, short-tailed albatrosses move to feeding areas in the North Pacific. When feeding, albatrosses alight on the ocean surface and seize their prey, including squid, fish, and shrimp.”

[Quoting USF&W, “Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus)”, February 2001 pamphlet, page 1 of 2.]

Steller’s Albatross 2©U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Steller’s Albatross 3©U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Short-tailed Albatross Map

The Steller’s Albatross, under the name Short-tailed Albatross, has been officially listed as “endangered” (under the Endangered Species Act of 1973) throughout its North Pacific range, as promulgated in 65 F.R. 46643 (Volume 65 of the Federal Register, page 46643-46654, issued 31 July 2000), in conjunction with implementing aspects of the wildlife protection treaty called “CITES” (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

This means that the Steller’s Albatross, and products of its body parts, may not be freely traded (i.e., apart from an appropriate governmental license), regardless of whether they were “taken” from the wild in America — or “taken” from the wild in any other country that is a ratifying signatory of the CITES treaty (which prohibits the trafficking of endangered species and products produced therefrom).

So, if anyone offers to sell you a fancy hat, adorned with Steller’s Albatross feathers – and claims that the bird was obtained outside the United States, don’t buy it!   (It’s contraband, unpermitted possession of which is a federal crime!)

Ironically, as a result of an earlier “administrative error”, this albatross was officially listed as “endangered” throughout its range “except in the United States”! — Way to go, bureaucrats!

At this point we will break our review of the above-mentioned “A” birds.  In “Part 2” of these “A birds” we will review Accipiter hawks and Alcids, God willing!



“A” is for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Bird, Part 2

Diomedeidae: Albatrosses

Ian’s Bird of the Week: Royal Albatross

Ian’s Stamp of the Week: Antipodean Albatross

Ian’s Bird of the Week: Light-mantled Albatross

Ian’s Bird of the Week: Campbell / Black-browed Albatross.

Steller’s Jay: A Lesson in Choosing What Is Valuable

Recurvirostridae: Stilts, Avocets


Live Cams from All About Birds

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) by Bob-Nan

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) by Bob-Nan

The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan, (Deuteronomy 14:16 KJV)

There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate. (Isaiah 34:15 KJV)

Are you aware of the Live Cameras that All About Birds are sharing? They are very interesting to watch. The latest that was shared with me is a Great Horned Owl nest Cam in Savannah, GA.

Take a look”

Here is a link that shows more about the Great Horned Owls there.

How about some Laysan Albatross nest in Hawaii?

Here is there link for the Albatross.

Aren’t these amazing? It is alway great to watch the Lord’s amazing creations, but to get to see them at the nest or at feeders is neat with today’s technology.

If you would like to see all the current Cams from All About Birds click this link. Not all the camera are operating all the time, but this page will help you find the live one as the current time.


Birds of the Bible – Owls

Strigidae – Owls

Diomedeidae – Albatrosses Family



Ian’s Stamp of the Week – Antipodean Albatross

Ian’s Stamp of the Week – Antipodean Albatrosses ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 9/13/14

The reference to Stamp of the Week in the subject line isn’t a typo: I’m celebrating the issue of a stamp set by New Zealand Post on 3 September which includes a photo of mine in the design of one of the stamps.

Antipodean Albatross (Diomedea antipodensis) Stamp by Ian

Here is the original photo, taken north of Macquarie Island when we were returning to Hobart at the end of a Subantarctic Islands trip in November 2011 that started in Dunedin. This was the same trip on which I photographed the Fiordland Penguins that featured as last week’s bird.

Antipodean Albatross (Diomedea antipodensis gibsoni ) by Ian

If you’re not familiar with Antipodean Albatrosses and think it looks like a Wandering Albatross, you may be relieved to hear that it’s all a matter of taxonomy and reflects the recent split of the Wandering Albatross into four species, one of which is the Antipodean. In fact this same taxon, for want of a better word, was bird of the week in November 2006 as Wandering Albatross after I’d photographed some on a pelagic trip off Wollongong south of Sydney. If we follow this split, and BirdLife Australia does, then most of the erstwhile Wandering Albatrosses in Australian waters are Antipodean and breed on the islands south of New Zealand, mainly Antipodes Island, Campbell Island and Adams Island in the Auckland Islands.

Antipodean Albatross (Diomedea antipodensis) by Ian

The Antipodean is one of the smaller of the Wandering Albatross group but they are still enormous: up to 117cm/46in in length with a wing span to 3.3m/11ft and weighing up to 8.6kg/19lbs. Look carefully at the second Albatross photo and you’ll see a grey and black Broad-billed Prion completely dwarfed by the Antipodean Albatross. The prion is about 30cm/12in in length with a wingspan of 60cm/2ft. You can get an impression of the size in the third photo taken on that Wollongong trip – look at the bow wave!

ntipodean Albatross (Diomedea antipodensis) by Ian

The Antipodean Albatross itself comes in two varieties, the nominate Antipodean which breeds on Antipodes and Campbell Island and ‘Gibson’s Albatross’ which breeds in the Auckland Islands Group. The various Wandering Albatross species all look rather similar and are difficult to identify in the field. They vary in size and they differ in the rate and extent of development of white plumage in adult birds – juveniles are mainly brown. The ones in the first two photos are very white and are probably older males of the race gibsoni. The bird swimming in the third photo shows less development of white plumage – not the darkish cap and the dark vermiculations on the neck, breast and shoulder and may be a younger male or female and could be either nominate Antipodes or Gibson’s: all too hard.

Antipodean Albatross (Diomedea antipodensis) Stamp by Ian

Antipodean Albatross (Diomedea antipodensis) Stamp by Ian

Here is the complete set of stamps. New Zealand Post wanted to pay me to use the albatross photo, but I so like the idea of having one of mine used in a stamp that they agreed to send me first day covers and a presentation pack instead and that arrived yesterday. Antipodean Albatrosses rate as Vulnerable/Endangered because of their few nesting sites and long-line fishing which leads to the death of adult birds as by-catch. The total population is perhaps 16,000 pairs but there is hope that the population has stabilised after significant declines at the end of the 20th century.

Anyway, I’m off to Dublin via Dubai on Monday to visit family and friends. I’m spending 3 nights in Dubai having found it, to my complete astonishment, ranked as #75 in a book on the top 100 places in the world to go birding. Because of its location at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, it’s an important staging post for birds migrating from Asia to Africa in the northern spring and autumn migrations (i.e. now). I have two target species: the Crab Plover and the Cream-coloured Courser. The first because it’s an unusual and beautiful black and white wader in a family all to itself and the unusual looking and named Courser – a member of the Pratincole family – because it caught my eye in my Field Guide to the Birds of Britain in Europe when I was a teenager in Ireland half a century ago, below. So, I need your spiritual energy and goodwill to help me. You haven’t failed me in the past!

This was supposed to be a short bird of the week as I really should be packing but I almost forgot to mention that Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland is now available through Kobo Books. I really like the Kobo ebook reader: I have it on both my Mac computer and my iPad/iPhone but Kobo reader software is also for Android tablets and phones, Blackberries and Windows computers and phone. A friend of mine has expressed concern over the complexity of ebook software/apps, devices/computers and methods of purchase/download etc. so I’m preparing a page to add to the existing one on publications on the website: which already has links to Apple, Google Play and Kobo Books and a little bit about the differences. Something to do on the plane.



Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737
Bird Photos

Recorder Society

Lee’s Addition:

Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. (Isaiah 52:13 NASB)

Wow! Our Ian is famous. That is quite an honor! I was thinking of Ian as well as the Albatrosses when I picked the verse.

The Albatrosses are a members of the Diomedeidae – Albatrosses Family. There are 21 species in the family. (From CreationWiki) “Albatrosses have very long wings and large bodies. Their bills are hooked and they possess separate raised tubular nostrils. Their bodies range from sizes between 76 and 122 centimeters long (2.5 to 4 feet); and their wingspan ranges from 3 to 6 meters across(9.8 to 19.7 feet). The wings are usually darkly colored on the upper side and are pale colors or white on the underside. Albatross wings allow it to take advantage of the abundant winds across the surface of the sea. The birds make use of the fact that friction with the sea slows some of the wind down so that right above the surface of the water, the wind is relatively weak and slow. Then, as the bird climbs up from the surface, the speed and strength of the wind increases as well (around 50 feet or 15 meters above the surface of the water the albatrosses will reach their full flight speed).

Albatrosses’ wings are designed for a specified type of gliding. Being very long and somewhat thin in width, the wings are used best in the albatrosses’ cycle of flight. This cycle allows the bird to move great distances without once flapping it wings. What a great Creator!


Antipodean Albatross – Ian’s

Ian’s Diomedeidae Family

Albatross – CreationWiki

Diomedeidae – Albatrosses Family

Ian’s Pratincole Family.