The family Diomedeidae includes 8 species found in North America.
Albatrosses are the largest seabirds with wingspans from 2 to 3.2 m and body lengths of 70-140 cm; males larger. The short nostril tubes are separate, lying on the sides of the culmen at the base of the maxilla. A groove extends forward from each nostril tube along the side of the maxilla. Salty nasal gland excretion follows this groove and drips from the tip of the bill. The bill is huge, with a hooked tip.
Food is mainly squid, fish and some crustacea. Some plant material accidentally ingested. 'Ballast' stones are swallowed. Smaller seabirds (e.g., prions and small penguins) are sometimes seized, especially by the Sooty Albatross. Some albatrosses also scavenge on dead animals and whale feces and follow ships to feed on garbage thrown overboard. They readily come to dead fish ('chum') and fish oil attracts them. Most food is taken from the surface, but albatrosses also feed below the surface by up-ending or making shallow dives.
All species nest on the ground, usually in colonies. Most colonies are on islands. Nests vary in size and are composed of material within reach from the nest site; plants and soil make up most nests. One white egg, sometimes with reddish spots; both sexes incubate in shifts of several days; incubation period 65 -79 days. Young guarded by both parents, one at a time, until chick is large enough to defend itself after 5 weeks in large species, 3 weeks in the small species. Both parents feed the downy chick by partial regurgitation in which the nestling takes fluid and digested prey from the throat of the adult. A Wandering Albatross can make its first flight at about 278 days, the Royal at 240 and the Sooty at about 139 days. The extended period of brood care means that the larger species can breed only every other year. Age at first breeding is roughly proportional to size; most populations of the Wandering Albatross can breed at 9-11 years, but some delay until 15 years of age. The smaller species begin to breed at 4-7 years of age. Longevity 30-40 years in the Royal; more than 25 years in Buller's Albatross.
Albatrosses - Patuxent Bird ID Center