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A Wandering Albatross Over Wyoming

Updated on February 2, 2011

The Strangest Tourist

Living just south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I see tourists all the time. After 11 years of living here, not much surprises me. After all, people travel here from all over the world.

In the winter, they come to ski, snow board, enjoy fine dinning and world class hotels. In the summer, most are heading to Yellow Stone, to see the geysers, waterfalls and wildlife. Of course, there is also the Sturgis run: Merry Christmas, Bull Moose, Wyoming.

In the fall, hunters come from around the world. They come for a chance to shoot a deer, elk and moose. 'Grey's River Road,' less than a block form my house, is know and cherished by many men. I know this to be so, because we have never yet failed to meet someone who asks about it, when we are on vacation ourselves -- from Montana to Pennsylvania!

Of course, there are the non-tourists, who pass through the area. Those who have made the life choice to ride rickety old bicycles or hike where ever they go. Those who drive mules and wagons from rendezvous to rendezvous, reenacting the times and lives of trappers. Traveling crafts men, dog sledders, granola people, the occasional con-artist... you name it, I ignore it. After a while, they all seem the same.

That is why this particular tourist caught me so off guard.

He was completely different form any tourist I had seen before.

He was a Wandering Albatross!

Wandering Albatross, courtesy of:
Wandering Albatross, courtesy of:

What is a Wandering Albatross?

Albatross are large sea birds. For centuries, sailors have thought of seeing an albatross as sign of good luck. There are many species of albatross, 14-24, depending on who you talk to. Most species live in the Southern Hemisphere, as is the case of the Wandering Albatross.

Albatross take up to 13 years to reach maturity, they engage in courtships that can last up to two years. They raise one chick every two to four years, depending on the species. Some live to be a century old.

All Albatross are know for their long wings and their flight abilities. They are gliders, often soring long distances. The Wandering Albatross is known for it's exceptionally long wing span, 11-14 feet, according to National Geographic. Through studies, scientists have found that these exceptional birds are able to glide 10,000 miles at a time.

Over Wyoming

It was a cloudy fall morning. A storm was rolling in, and I was repeating the children's school instructions for the umpteen millionth time, when we saw a huge white bird soring over our neighbor's house. It glided over their barn and circled back around their house, turning sideways to fly between the house and a tree. Then up into the sky it went, disappearing amongst the clouds.

We stared, dumb-struck. We had never seen a bird so big. A few calculations, based on the size of our neighbors house, told us the wing span had to be at least 11 feet. We wondered if it had been some form of remote-control plane, but the fact that it had disappeared into the clouds made us think that it had been real. A few weeks later, we saw a National Geographic with our giant white bird on the cover.

In all of the research I have done, I have not found anything about albatross flying over land masses, except to nest. All of it has shown that their normal flight patterns are over the oceans. I suppose this was a once in a lifetime tourist sighting.

Ivorwen, 2009.

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    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      LiftedUp, it has been so long since I have seen a chickadee. Chickadees and mountain blue birds are my favorite little birds.

      Glad you enjoyed the video. I thought it was very fascinating.

    • LiftedUp profile image

      LiftedUp 8 years ago from Plains of Colorado

      Fascinating! I feel fortunate when I see an occasional chickadee, or the blackbirds with the yellow breasts. Thanks for including the video; that was great.

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      Thank you, Justine. Sometimes I think I am just in the right place at the right time. There are so many things I have seen, and when I ask around, find out that very few other know what I am talking about. Still I wonder, how much do I miss?

    • profile image

      Justine76 8 years ago

      What a fantastic hub! You do see the most amazing things. How wonderful it must be, to be such an alert observer of the world!! Thanks for sharing this story. :)

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      Rose, I would love to see more albatross, but living this far inland, am unlikely to. I trip to the ocean is definitely in order.

      Tom, I am thinking it was the storm, that allowed this bird to glide hundreds of miles inland, out of it's usual rout.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image

      Tom Rubenoff 8 years ago from United States

      Often when there is a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico we see tropical sea birds we don't usually see here in Massachusetts. I love birds and find them fascinating. Thanks for this interesting article on a unique bird.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      That's so crazy that you saw an albatross in Wyoming! Albatross are regulars around my house here in Hawaii, but I've never heard of them going that far inland! They're really cool birds, and the chicks are especially cute.

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      If I ever find out, I most certainly will let you know, ButterflyWings.

    • ButterflyWings profile image

      ButterflyWings 8 years ago

      My goodness, if you ever find out what an albatross was doing in Wyoming, let us know! That is an awesome bird.

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      Thank you Alekhouse and Deayne! You never know what you might see, when watching wildlife.

    • Dwayne Terry profile image

      Dwayne Terry 8 years ago

      What a fun hub! Makes me want to keep an eye on my Arkansas sky--you never know. I had no idea they could glide so very far. Thanks for writing!

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      I loved this hub. It was so interesting! I like any stories about birds or animals. Thanks