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World's longest-winged birds go easy on older partners

Still Waters

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A new study led by the University of Liverpool has found that wandering albatrosses with older partners spend less time on foraging trips than those with more sprightly partners so that their mate has a shorter wait without food.

These enormous birds hold the record for the world's longest wingspan (3 meters on average) and can reach 50 years of age. Found gliding above the southern Indian and Antarctic Oceans, wandering albatrosses generally mate for life, breeding with the same partner every two years.

After the female lays her single egg, the prospective parents embark on one of the longest incubation periods amongst birds. They spend the next 78 days taking it in turns to incubate, while their mate goes to sea to feed.

These feeding trips last for around 12 days on average, during which time the nest-bound parent must stay put without food. This can have significant negative impacts on their body condition, which get worse the longer their partner is away.



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