The group of 117 species of seabirds that includes the albatrosses (family Diomedeidae); shearwaters, fulmars, prions, and large petrels (Procellariidae); storm petrels (Hydrobatidae) ; and diving petrels (Pelecanoididae not shown). All are recognizable by their conspicuous tubular nostrils, which project upon the upper bill.
Shearwaters (Procellariidae), storm petrels (Hydrobatidae), and diving petrels (Pelecanoididae) feed by taking small fish and crustaceans close to the surface; they make short dives as necessary. Albatrosses, giant petrels, and fulmars dive little; they are surface feeders. At night they devour squid that rise to the surface; during the day they take schooling fish; garbage from ships; wounded, exhausted, or dead birds; and carrion, including the flesh of dead whales.
Facing an intruder, the disturbed bird ejects a spurt of foul-smelling fluid a meter or so in his direction. It is a waxy, acid secretion of the proventriculus (the first chamber of the stomach).
The male and female remain faithful to their nesting site and thus to each other for life. At each fresh encounter ashore between breeding birds, there is an elaborate greeting ceremony; the birds clash and fence with the bills, cackling and screaming. Before it leaves the nest, the chick is deserted by the parents, who retire to molt at sea. When deserted, the chick is well-feathered and fatter and heavier than the adult; it needs a period of thinning and exercise before it is capable of flight. After days of fasting and wing flapping, it may become airborne on a mountain height from which it can flap and glide to the sea.
Albatrosses and petrels, which are extremely slow breeders, are one of the most threatened aviary groups. The first cause is long-line fishing, on which these birds are attracted and hooked (as many as 100 000 deaths per year); plastic flotsam which they swallow; exotic species introduced to breeding colonies; and oil spills.
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