Quick Facts

Species: 21

Wingspan: 11 feet

Weight: 18 lbs

Population: 21,000 Pairs

Location: Southern Seas

Diet: Fish and Squid

Nests: Mounds of mud & grass

Conservation Status: 19 Species threatned

Lifespan: 50 years

Description & Characteristics:

Most famous and largest of the albatrosses, the “wanderer” roams the Southern Ocean. They often follow visiting ships, wheeling and floating hypnotically at a distance for hours at a time. Effortlessly gliding on the wind, they are capable of round trips of thousands of kilometers over several days. They swoop low over ocean swells, dipping down when the sea falls and rising when the wave rises. Their wings are capable of “locking” into an extended position, thereby reducing strain over long flights.

Albatrosses can live to be 80 – 85 years old and they mate for life. Once they leave the nest they may not return to land again for 7 to 10 years when they return to the island where they were born. They have a white head, neck and body, a wedge-shaped tail, and a large pink beak. Plumage varies through its life, from dark brown in the first year to almost fully white in old age.

Albatrosses are considered by many to be the most majestic of all Antarctic birds. Their long, narrow wings are strikingly graceful. Equally impressive are the large heads featuring massive hooked bills. Their bodies are mainly white and they have long necks, short legs, and mostly short tails. Albatrosses are supreme gliders; with modified wings to maximize the updrafts and thermals over the open ocean. Albatrosses are best observed during rough weather, when high waves create strong uplifting air currents, enabling them to remain aloft with hardly a wing beat for hours on end.

Southern Royal Albatross: Latin Name: Diomedea epomophora
Population: 15,000 breeding pairs
Location: Southern oceans
Wingspan: 9 feet
Weight: 20 pounds
Diet: Squid & fish
Nests: Cones of mud and grass
Appearance: Adult has white head and body, upper wing mostly brown black with an area of white at the leading edge.

Black-browed: Latin Name: Diomedea melanophris

Population: 500,000 breeding pairs
Location: Southern oceans
Wingspan: 7 feet
Weight: 11 pounds
Diet: squid, fish and crustaceans,
Nests: Cones of mud & grass
Appearance: Mostly white body with yellowish-orange webbed feet, very long wings, gray highlights, bright yellow beak.

Grey headed: Latin Name: Diomedea chrysostoma
Population: 106,000 breeding pairs
Location: Southern Oceans
Wingspan: 8 feet
Weight: 15 pounds
Diet: Fish, squid, & krill
Nests: Mounds of mud and grass
Appearance: Greyish head, with a black bill ridged top and bottom with yellow, and tipped red-orange; broad, dark leading edge to the underwing and orange stripes.

Light-mantled Sooty: Latin Name: Phoebetria palpebrata
Population: 30,000 breeding pairs
Location: Southern seas reaching toward pack ice
Wingspan: 6 feet
Weight: 11 pounds
Diet: Fish, squid, & krill
Nests: Low mounds made of mud with some plant material, usually lined with grasses
Appearance: Body is sooty brown color with grey buff mantle and contrasting pale back with a prominently dark head, small blue stripe along lower mandible; long, pointed tails and narrow wings

Yellow-nosed Albatross: Latin Name: Diomedea chlororhychos
Population: 100,000 breeding pairs
Location: Northerly islands of the Southern Ocean
Wingspan: 5 feet
Weight: 6 pounds
Diet: Fish & krill
Nests: Mounds of mud & grass, lined with vegetation
Appearance: White body with dark upper wings; black bill with orange streak on the upper mandible.

Did you know?

  • Albatrosses spend the better part of their lives on the wing, gliding and circling the wind systems of the Southern Ocean.
  • There is thought to be a total of 750,000 breeding pairs of the 13 species of these massive birds.
  • Adult Albatrosses share incubation, brooding and feeding of the single chick.
  • Adults have been recorded flying up to 550 miles per day at speeds of 50 mph, and in a single foraging flight they can cover an incredible 1800 to 9300 miles, a distance greater than the diameter of the earth.
  • Albatross mortality is high in the first year, but those which survive often surpass 50 years, making them one of the most well-travelled animals in the world.
  • In today’s world, their main threat is being snared in gill-nets and caught on longline hooks.
  • In folklore the Albatross carried the soul of dead mariners. Should a sailor kill the bird, bad luck would fall upon him for the rest of his natural life. This belief was not universally held, as Albatross feet were once used as tobacco pouches.

Complete the following form to request more information.