Tiger Sharks Prey On Baby Albatrosses Off Hawaii

Dustin Wicksell - Author

Dec. 31 2014, Updated 7:37 a.m. ET

Albatross breeding season in Hawaii has proven to be fertile hunting time for a small group of tiger sharks, which have been filmed offshore, waiting to devour nascent birds struggling to learn how to fly.

As the young albatrosses spread their wings for the first time and stumble into the world of flight, they represent easy prey for the sharks, animals with an undiscerning palate. As Shark Attack News notes, hungry tiger sharks wait in the waters off albatross rookeries, like that at Midway Island, expecting the young birds’ first attempts at flight to bring them into the ocean.

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As National Geographic points out, the albatross possesses the largest wingspan of any bird, yet getting airborne is a learned skill that requires their wing muscles to be strengthened through use. Spending 70 percent of their lives on or over the ocean, these birds are spurred into a steep learning curve by the shark-infested waters near their homes.

Tiger sharks, calculating hunters, travel for hundreds of miles to find themselves near Midway Island. When a young bird attempts to fly over the water, their wings can grow tired, forcing them to land in the sharks’ domain. As soon as they do, the fluffy down that covers their bodies grows wet and heavy, further burdening them and keeping the birds out of the air.

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Only a small population of tiger sharks have discerned that the albatross breading season will lead to easy prey for them, yet the group that returns to the Hawaiian Islands each year in anticipation of this event can consume a full 10 percent of all chicks reared in a season. Peak hunting time only lasts a few weeks, before the birds are strong enough to leave the island, giving the tiger sharks little reason to remain in the area.

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Scientists in Hawaii captured and tagged 35 tiger sharks this year in an effort to study their movements, following an unprecedented uptick in attacks. As the Inquisitr previously reported, researchers discovered that while tiger sharks would range out into the open ocean to hunt prey, they showed a particular affinity for the coastal shelf around Hawaii, remaining in water less than 600 feet deep for extended periods of time. Many of the coastal regions frequented by tiger sharks lay just off popular beaches, heightening the probability that the sharks may interact with beachgoers.

[Image: National Geographic via Middle Of Frigate Nowhere]


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