Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tubenose – Procellariiformes

Black-footed Albatross
One of interesting orders of birds are the Tubenose – Procellariiformes.  The Tubenoses consists of four families: albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, storm petrels, and diving petrels.  They are mainly pelagic, usually coming only onto land to breed.  The name tubenose comes from the tubular nasal passage that sits on top of their bill.  They utilize the nasal passage to help them locate prey because of the keen sense of smell.  Because the Procellariiformes drink seawater, they have to excrete excess salt, which they do by utilizing and a large nasal gland at the base of the bill above the eyes.  This gland removes the excess salt from the system and excretes it as a 5% saline solution that trip side of the nostrils of these birds.
The Procellariiformes vary in size from the extremely large albatrosses to the tiny storm petrels.  They are found across the world's oceans and seas.  Some species migrate from the southern oceans to the northern oceans.  In fact, the Sooty Shearwater makes an annual round-trip of around 40,000 miles.
I have observed these birds on pelagic trips, both on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  One of my memorable experiences was on a three day pelagic voyage out from San Diego.  I was sitting in the main cabin, enjoying a midday snack, looking out the window, when in the distance, I saw a huge bird.  I said to myself.  That has to be an albatross, yes, it was an albatross, a Laysan albatross, my very first albatross.
Laysan Albatross
Black-footed Albatross landing feed with Western Gulls

Buller's Shearwater

Corey's Shearwater

Flesh-footed Shearwater

Great Shearwaters fighting

Great Shearwater

Northern Fulmar

Wilson's Storm-Petrel

Pink-footed Shearwater