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Black browed albatross
Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys)
Photo: Bjørn Krafft
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Flying seabirds

Among the most conspicuous flying birds in the Antarctic is the albatross, which is the largest of seabirds reaching a wing span of 3 meters.

They have an enormous migratory capacity and life spans up to 60 years. They feed on fish, squid and crustaceans. Albatrosses only lay a single egg at a time and have a very low reproductive rate. Many of the albatross populations have declined, and one of the main reasons is that they are unintendedly caught on long-line hooks. Stricter regulations on the fishery in recent years, however, have contributed to reduce such mortality.  

The most numerous birds in Antarctica belong to the family Procellariidae and comprise the petrels, prions, fulmars, and shearwaters. They have similar diets as the albatross, and do like the albatross only lay one single egg. Another widespread species in the Southern Ocean is the skua (Catharacta maccormicki), which are known as scavengers on penguin and petrel eggs and other birds prey. Other common species are different species of gulls, terns and two species of cormorant and sheathbill.


What is an ecosystem?

Ecosystems are often described in terms of energy transfer between levels of the food chain. Behind the energy transfer, however, a life or death struggle between predators and prey is taking place. This struggle, in which every individual tries to make the most of itself by spreading its genes, results in what we call the “interplay of nature”. This interplay is fascinating, both as a field of study and as a management problem.

More about ecosystem