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

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More Sunday Inspirations

Oceanitidae – Austral Storm Petrels

Diomedeidae – Albatrosses

Laysan albatross, named Wisdom

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

Campbell Albatross (Thalassarche impavida) by Ian

Campbell Albatross (Thalassarche (melanophris impavida) by Ian 1

Another belated bird of the week, so this time you get two species, or maybe only one as we’ll see shortly. Welcome, in a nutshell, to the glory of Albatrosses and the nightmare of bird taxonomy, where I’ve been lately trying to help sort out the final bird list for the digital Pizzey and Knight.

Let’s start by comparing the bird in photo #1 with the one in #2, taken within 6 minutes of each another on a pelagic bird-watching trip from Port Fairy in southern Victoria on 22 July 2001. In those days, when life was simple, we called them both Black-browed Albatrosses. I mention the date as only 5 days later a paper was accepted for publication by the Journal of Molecular Biology which supported the splitting of this species into at least two, the Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) which nests in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Campbell Albatross (Thalassarche impavida), endemic to Campbell Island south of New Zealand.

Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) by Ian 2

Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) by Ian 2

Definitely a spot the difference puzzle and by now you have found the two features visible in birds not in flight: the adult Campbell Island Albatross has a more strongly marked brow, which makes it look crosser, and a pale iris, which, I think, makes it look slightly manic like the Blue-winged Kookaburra. The underwing patterns are different too. The Campbell is much darker with only a faint central band of white as in photo #3, taken off Wollongong in New South Wales.

Campbell Albatross  (Thalassarche (melanophris impavida) by Ian 3

Campbell Albatross (Thalassarche (melanophris impavida) by Ian 3

At even a short distance, the colour of the iris is hard to see, so the underwing pattern is a better field mark for birds in flight, as in the sub-adult Campbell Albatross in photo #4.

Campbell Albatross (Thalassarche (melanophris impavida) by Ian 4

Campbell Albatross (Thalassarche (melanophris impavida) by Ian 4

Campbell T. impavida if you follow Birdlife International. The different spellings melanophris and melanophrys aren’t typos. Temminck originally spelt it with an ‘i’ but the taxonomists Jouanin and Mougin, Latin scholars obviously, though Temminck couldn’t spell and it should be a ‘y’ and that has been adopted by Birdlife International. C&B uphold the rule that says the original spelling should stand, and stick to the ‘i’.

Welcome to the nit-picking world of bird taxonomy. Does it matter? It does if you want to know how many birds are on your list and it matters if you are a conservationist. Governments are much more willing to provide funds and resources to protect threatened species that they are for sub-species and many of the Albatross types, or taxons, are threatened by long-line fishing. Linnaeus set out in the 18th Century to impose order on a chaotic scientific world with his binomial naming scheme, long before Darwin’s Origin of Species. It’s probably just as well he’s not around to see the result.

Back at the website, I’ve recently finished reformatting the galleries with improved layout, easier navigation and larger photos. I started the process in May 2010 and said then that it would take a long time (over 1,300 galleries) and it’s good to put it behind me. To celebrate, I’m joining the local Birds Australia (BANQ) in Daintree next weekend and then going to Cape York to chase a few species missing from the wanted list for the digital Pizzey and Knight (Trumpet Manucode, Tropical Scrubwren, White-lined and Green-backed Honeyeater). Wish me luck as I’d love to produce the Manucode, one of the 4 species of bird of paradise found in Australia, as a bird of the week. The Daintree weekend includes one or two boat trips on the Daintree River and birding walks, so join us if you can. All are welcome, so check out the details on the BANQ website http://www.birdsaustralianq.org/#Coming .

Best wishes
Ian


Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

Whew! Okay, Ian, I think I followed all of that! As I have been saying, this naming and re-naming, splitting and glumping can get confusing. I still contend that Adam had it a whole lot easier. I have been going through those changes when the IOC World Bird List comes about about every 3 months. Keep up the good work, Ian. No matter what you call them, those are fantastic photos of the Albatrosses.

After checking out Ian’s Albatrosses, the look up the whole family, Diomedeidae-Albatrosses, here.

And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.”
(Genesis 1:20 ESV)

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Updated the Procellariiformes Order Pages

Flesh-footed Shearwater (Puffinus_Ardenna carneipes) by Ian

Flesh-footed Shearwater (Puffinus_Ardenna carneipes) by Ian

Like birds flying about, So will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem. Defending, He will also deliver it; Passing over, He will preserve it. (Isaiah 31:5 NKJV)

Since writing the “Formed By Him – Sea Birds That Drink Seawater“, I have been busy behind the scene updating the Procellariiformes Order.That was the Order the article was about. Found as many species’ photos as I could and even included some videos to view. There are a total of 40 Orders altogether, so it is nice to complete another one.

Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta) by Ian

Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta) by Ian

Procellariiformes is an order of seabirds that comprises four families: the albatrosses, procellariids, storm-petrels and diving petrels. Formerly called Tubinares and still called tubenoses in English, they are often referred to collectively as the petrels, a term that has been applied to all Procellariiformes or more commonly all the families except the albatrosses. They are almost exclusively pelagic (feeding in the open ocean). They have a cosmopolitan distribution across the world’s oceans, with the highest diversity being around New Zealand.

Cape Petrel (Daption capense) by Bob-Nan

Cape Petrel (Daption capense) by Bob-Nan

Procellariiformes are colonial, mostly nesting on remote predator-free islands. The larger species nest on the surface, while most smaller species nest in natural cavities and burrows. They exhibit strong philopatry, returning to their natal colony to breed and returning to the same nesting site over many years. Procellariiformes are monogamous and form long-term pair bonds which are formed over several years and may last for the life of the pair. Only a single egg is laid per nesting attempt, and usually only a single nesting attempt is made per year, although the larger albatrosses may only nest once every two years. Both parents participate in incubation and chick rearing. Incubation times are long compared to other birds, as are fledgling periods. Once a chick has fledged there is no further parental care.

If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days. (Deuteronomy 22:6-7 NKJV)

Tahitian Petrel (Pseudobulweria rostrata) by Ian

Tahitian Petrel (Pseudobulweria rostrata) by Ian

Procellariiformes have had a long relationship with humans. They have been important food sources for many people, and continue to be hunted as such in some parts of the world. They have also been the subject of numerous cultural depictions, particularly albatrosses. Procellariiformes are one of the most endangered bird taxa, with many species threatened with extinction due to introduced predators in their breeding colonies, marine pollution and the danger of fisheries by-catch. (from Wikipedia)

The Procellariiformes Order includes these Families:
Albatrosses – Diomedeidae – 21 species
Petrels, Shearwaters – Procellariidae – 90 species
Storm Petrels – Hydroatidae – 23 species

Yellow-nosed Albatross (Diomedea chlororhynchos) on the water, then flying off – by Nick Talbot.

See Also:

Birds of the World

More Formed By Him articles

Interesting Things – Amazing Bird Migration (Manx Shearwater)

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Buller’s Shearwater

Flight 7 by a j mithra

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Formed By Him – Sea Birds That Drink Seawater

Buller's Shearwater (Puffinus bulleri) by Ian

Buller’s Shearwater (Puffinus bulleri) by Ian

An interesting article by Donna L. O’Daniel provided the background for this blog. You can see her complete article at: Water, Water Everywhere . . . And Not A Drop To Drink. See the article for some of the more technical aspects of this.

Birds that are at sea for months and even years must have a way to quench their thirst. How can they do that? If we drink seawater, which is loaded with salt, we would be in deep trouble. Most regular birds would also suffer harm if they were to drink the salty water all the time. Birds like the Albatrosses, Petrels, Tubenoses and Shearwaters do, in fact, drink saltwater.

Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) by Daves BirdingPix

You would know that the Lord God, the Creator God, would have already prepared these birds for this situation. And so He did.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV)
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28 NKJV)

Northern Giant Petrel (Macronectes halli) by Dave's BirdingPix

Northern Giant Petrel (Macronectes halli) by Dave’s BirdingPix

“Sea birds like the albatross drink freely from sea water but never seem to suffer any ill effects. They manage this because their physiology has become adapted to the sea environment. They have special glands just behind their eyes that actively pump salt out of their blood and into narrow tubes that lead into the bird’s nostril. The excess salt drips harmlessly out of the body, restoring the blood salt level back to normal.” “Seabirds can drink seawater and have salt glands inside the head that eliminate excess salt out of the nostrils.” (Internet)

Wikipedia has this to say about the Albatrosses: “Albatrosses, along with all Procellariiformes have a need to lower their salt content due to their drinking of ocean water. All birds have an enlarged nasal gland at the base of the bill, above their eyes. This gland is inactive in species that don’t require it; however the Procellariiformes do require its use. Scientists are uncertain as to its exact processes, but do know in general terms that it removes salt that forms a 5% saline solution that drips out of their nose or is forcibly ejected in some birds.

Northern Giant Petrel head close-up by Daves BirdingPix

Northern Giant Petrel head close-up by Daves BirdingPix

About the Tubenoses and Shearwaters: “They also have a uniquely structured bill, with seven to nine distinct horny plates.. Finally, they have a salt gland that is located above their nasal passages and helps desalinate their body, as they drink seawater. They excrete the salty waste out their nose. As members of Procellariiformes, they share certain characteristics. First they have tubular nostrils called nariorns. This feature gives them their common name, Tubenoses. The opening to the nostril is located differently in some birds. These birds have the opening on top of the upper bill.”

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:20-21 NKJV)

Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) by Ian

Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) by Ian

“The creation model for the origin of avian salt glands states that an intelligent Creator created this class of vertebrates complete with all of the complex systems within their bodies to survive in and adapt to their given environments, including salt glands to rid their bodies of excess salt. Perhaps the strongest argument in favor of the creation model for the origin of avian salt glands, aside from the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record, is one consisting of purpose and interdependence of purposeful parts.

Given the complexity of the functioning of avian salt glands, their existence by design can hardly be denied. The evidence for design that is obvious in the avian salt gland suggests a Designer who not only created the gland, but the entire animal, the earth, and the entire universe.” From Donna’s Article (see above)

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. (Revelation 21:6 NKJV)
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17 NKJV)

The Procellariiformes Order includes these Families:
Albatrosses – Diomedeidae – 21 species
Petrels, Shearwaters – Procellariidae – 86 species
Storm Petrels – Hydroatidae – 23 species
Diving Petrels – Pelecanoididae – 4 species

More Formed By Him articles

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