As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Birds’ Eye View: Rare sighting of a near-extinct albatross


By Stewart Janes / for the Mail Tribune
Posted Jan 26, 2018 at 12:01 AM
  
A chill breeze numbed the cheeks, but it could have been much worse. We were 30 miles off the Oregon Coast on a December day. The ocean was a little choppy, but I didn’t expect glassy seas. The sun even shone brightly at times.

We paused to chum with popcorn and beef fat to bring in scattered seabirds. A raft of assorted gulls, fulmars and about 20 black-footed albatrosses had gathered for the feast when a voice announced firmly “short-tailed albatross.”

The boat tipped slightly to port as the 30 or so birders strained to see a bird once thought extinct. As of 2003, it had been seen a total of three times in Oregon. We needn’t have rushed. The bird with the seven-foot wingspan came in close, made three or four leisurely passes on its long narrow wings before heading off to the horizon.

Adult short-tailed albatrosses are white with dark wings and a yellow wash on the head that gives them the affectionate name of “golden goonie.” This was a young bird, all brown with a large, pink bill.

The short-tailed albatross, once the most abundant albatross in the North Pacific, was hunted to near-extinction by Japanese plume hunters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They nested on Torishima and nearby islands. By the time the Japanese government put a stop to the killing in the 1930s, many thought it was already too late.

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