At-sea metabolism (C02 production) and water turnover of six breeding Grey-headed Albatrosses Diomedea chrysostoma were measured, using the doubly labelled water method, at Bird Island, South Georgia. Mean food consumption (estimated from a water influx rate of 1.01 l d-1 and data on dietary composition) was 1200 g d-1 or 50.4 W. At-sea metabolism (derived from a rate of CO2 production of 3.98 l h-1) was 27.7 W, 2.5 times the estimated basal metabolic rate (BMR). On average the birds ingested nearly twice as much food energy as they expended to obtain it. The metabolic rate during flight (estimated from at-sea metabolism and activity budget data) was 36.3 W (range 34.7-39.0 W) or 3.2 (range 3.0-3.4) times the predicted BMR. This is the lowest cost of flight yet measured, but consistent with the highly developed adaptations for economic flight shown by albatrosses. These results are briefly compared with data for other polar vertebrates (penguins, fur seals) exploiting similar prey.
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