Albatross courtship is unique among seabirds, both in its complexity and its duration. Males and females engage in a coordinated "dancing" display, in which the partners face one another and perform stereotyped and often synchronized behaviors such as bill "clappering" (in which the bill is quickly opened and closed repeatedly); "sky calling" (in which the bird lifts its bill to the sky, uttering a call like the "moo" of a cow); and fanning the wings while prancing in place. These displays are performed in repeating cycles for up to an hour each, numerous times per day. This behavior allows potential mates to evaluate each others' suitability as long-term partners.
Once formed, pair bonds in albatrosses appear to be life-long. After the initial courtship phase is over, the elaborate courtship rituals are much reduced or abandoned altogether in subsequent years. Researchers believe that these displays function more in pair formation than in the maintenance of the pair bond.
Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Adrenoceptor (adrenoreceptor; adrenergic receptor) to AmbientAlbatrosses - Flight And Navigation, Salt Regulation, Courtship Rituals, Care Of The Young, Conservation