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Colin Daileda is a freelance journalist in Bengaluru, India. His reporting, essays and photography have been published in The Atlantic, Atlas Obscura, Deadspin (RIP), Popula, Hakai Magazine, The Washington Post, and many others. Before Bengaluru, he was a reporter for Mashable based in New York City, from where he often traveled across the United States writing about state violence and social justice. Find him on Twitter: @ColinDaileda

Albatross People

Arthur Morris / Getty, Photo illustration by Katie Kosma

Colin Daileda | Longreads | March 2020 | 7 minutes (2,000 words)

My wife told me she had at last booked a flight back to Bengaluru and so I should relax that evening at our apartment. There I opened a book I was reading about birds, called The Thing With Feathers, by Noah Strycker. I was toward the end, on a chapter about albatrosses.

The wandering albatross looks not much different from a seagull, except it’s enormous. Its wings span 12 feet, twice my height. Wanderers need wings like this because they spend a huge part of their lives floating over the open ocean, plucking fish and squid from the water. They do this away from their mates, because keeping track of each other would cost precious energy needed to stay aloft. Each partner goes about their own life until, once every two years, they flutter back home to the little bits of land in the Southern oceans on which they nest. They greet each other with a dance and quickly go about building that year’s home. Though it takes nine months for an albatross chick to leave its nest, the parents won’t see each other much during that time, either. The baby needs food, and so they fly out in search of it over different parts of the sea. All that time away, and yet albatrosses almost always remain faithful for life.

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