Not many people go to the Galapagos Islands for a show, but that is exactly what they may get if they run into an albatross pair along the craggy cliffs of Española (Hood) Island. Between April and December, the critically endangered birds nest on this island, the only place in the world where they nest, providing visitors who stop off during Galapagos Island cruises with plenty of entertainment.
Although they sharing plumage with the common seagull, these birds are hard to mistake as common. Their white heads and chestnut brown to gray bodies measure nearly three feet long, and their wingspan is more than eight feet, making the waved albatrosses the islands’ largest bird.
It is not their size that is entertaining, though — it is their elaborate courtship ritual. The birds engage in a dance of types, with partners facing one another, bills opposed like they are dueling. The exchange appears violent — one step involves bending and slapping their bills back and forth, while another involves clapping bills open and closed, either rapidly or slowly. The "dance" steps are interspersed with bouts of fencing with their bills and letting out a "whoo-ooo" call.
Once the dance is through, albatrosses mate for life. In may and June, the albatross lays its single egg on Española and becomes a faithful sitter.
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