A man driving through Los Angeles was alerted Friday to an enormous bird that had hitched a ride in the back of his pickup truck. With its white body, black wings and curved yellow beak, it might have been mistaken for a super-sized sea gull.
But it turns out that the bird was a Laysan albatross, a seabird with an impressive 7-foot wingspan that normally nests on remote islands and atolls in the North Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles away.
Albatrosses Endangered By Long Line Fishing
Seabirds like albatross have been in the news recently because they are endangered by fishing lines, with up to 300,000 of them dying each year when they become caught in hooks on commercial bait lines. These are the so-called long lines, often used to fish for tuna, and they can be several kilometers long and studded with more than 1,000 bait hooks.
In this case, however, International Bird Rescue took custody of the bird after the driver handed it over to lifeguards at Cabrillo Beach. The group held the albatross for four days at its wildlife rescue center in San Pedro before giving it a clean bill of health.
But how did an albatross get to Los Angeles in the first place?
The Bird Mistook A Ship For An Island
A bird rescue group told the Los Angeles Times the big bird may have landed on a ship in the Pacific Ocean thinking it was an island, and stayed on board until the vessel reached Los Angeles, before disembarking and hopping into the pickup.
Albatrosses are amazing birds and can spend years roaming vast areas of the ocean without ever touching land. But they are rarely seen in California.
In 1979, a Laysan albatross was found wandering the streets of San Francisco, some of its feathers removed and its wings clipped. The bird, nicknamed Munch, was nursed back to health, flown to Honolulu and released by the U.S. Coast Guard into a colony of its peers on Midway Island.
From The Los Angeles Times:
An albatross hasn’t turned up in Southern California in at least five years, said Julie Skoglund, (San Pedro) Wildlife Center manager.
So when she and other staffers released the avian visitor Tuesday, they took special care.
Skoglund scooped the bird out of its aquatic enclosure with a net, wrapped it in a beach towel, gave it a final examination and fitted it with a metal identification band before putting it in a crate.
The albatross honked, fidgeted and snapped its long beak as staffers loaded it onto a city lifeguard boat and motored away from Cabrillo Beach, far enough from shore that the seabird wouldn’t be tempted to return to the mainland.
The Giant Bird Spread Its Very Wide Wings And Disappeared
When they tossed the albatross into the water, it shook off, stretched out its wings and looked around for all of 10 seconds before skittering across the water, flapping its wings and lifting into the sky and then toward the horizon.
The albatross is so skilled at long-distance flight that the journey across the ocean is expected to take only a few days.
We wish him the best of luck on his journey!
Photo Credit: jan lyall