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Albatrosses and Shearwaters

World Sea Bird Day

Jul 3

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"At length did cross an Albatross, Thorough the fog it came; As if it had been a Christian soul, We hailed it in God's name." ~ The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1834

Both Albatrosses and Shearwaters have left their mark on the human psyche. Some, like the albatross, figure symbolically in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's lyrical ballad The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The Sooty Shearwater, in contrast, was the modern inspiration for one of Alfred Hitchcock's most iconic horror-thriller films, The Birds! In 1961, the local paper in Santa Cruz, California, reported that thousands of crazed Sooty Shearwaters were sighted on the shores of North Monterey Bay, regurgitating anchovies, crashing into buildings, and dying on the streets. The incident sparked the interest of local resident Alfred Hitchcock, and together with a story about spooky bird behavior by British writer Daphne du Maurier, inspired his creation of the 1963 thriller, The Birds, a cautionary tale of nature revolting against man.  Albatross!!

Albatrosses and Shearwaters

World Sea Bird Day, July 3rd, is the last day the Great Auk was sighted before it went extinct.  The great auk (Pinguinus impennis) is a species of flightless alcid that became extinct in the mid-19th century. It was the only modern species in the genus Pinguinus.  Though not related, the penguin is named for this bird because of the similarities in appearance.  World Sea Bird Day celebrates birds adapted to marine life.

The name "albatross" is derived from the Arabic for a diving pelican and entered the English language via the Portuguese form alcatraz, (which is also the origin of the name of the former prison and island in the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz)

Once commonly known as goonie birds' or gooney birds, particularly those of the North Pacific, these large seabirds are still referred to as mollymawks in some parts of the Southern Hemisphere.  


An albatross is a central emblem in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which gave rise to the "albatross around the neck" metaphor of someone bearing a burden or facing an obstacle.

In golf, shooting three under par on a single hole has recently been termed scoring an "albatross", as a continuation on the birdie and eagle theme.

Shearwaters, medium-sized seabirds, common in temperate and cold waters.   Many are long-distance migrants, perhaps most spectacularly sooty shearwaters, which cover distances in excess of 14,000 km (8,700 mi) from their breeding colony on the Falkland Islands to as far as 70° north latitude in the North Atlantic Ocean off northern Norway. One study found Sooty shearwaters migrating nearly 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) a year, which would give them the longest animal migration ever recorded electronically.   

The sooty shearwater bird was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's famous film, The Birds.

The Birds is a 1963 American horror-thriller film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, loosely based on the 1952 story of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. It focuses on a series of sudden, unexplained violent bird attacks on the people of Bodega Bay, California over the course of a few days.  Hitchcock was inspired to make this film based on a real incident which occurred in northern California.


On August 18, 1961, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that thousands of crazed sooty shearwaters were sighted on the shores of North Monterey Bay in California, regurgitating anchovies, flying into objects, and dying on the streets. The incident sparked the interest of local resident Alfred Hitchcock, along with a story about spooky bird behavior by British writer Daphne du Maurier, helping to inspire Hitchcock's 1963 thriller The Birds, a cautionary tale of nature revolting against man.  The film is now ranked among the American Film Institute's top 10 thrillers of the last century.  For more on the causes of this historic bird incident, click the movie poster!

To see the dance performed At The Festival "The Breath Of Siberia", 2017, see below.

Albatrosses and Shearwaters

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

Albatrosses and Shearwaters

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WELCOME TO An Entertainment Site for Scottish Country Dancers - Enjoy the curated selection of theme-related dances for celebrations and holidays, or find a dance associated with a special calendar day, or EVEN your own birthday!  

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