Latin name: Thalassarche chrysostoma
Longevity: Some of the oldest of these birds were found to be around 36 years old. This is very young compared to some of the other albatross species, such as the Wandering albatross – which can live up to 80 years of age.
Cites classified: Vulnerable (IUCN, 2008)
Where found: Breeds on South Georgia, Islas Diego Ramirez, Prince Edward and Marion Islands, Crozet Islands, Kerguelen Islands, Campbell Island (New Zealand) and Macquarie Island. Grey-headed albatrosses prefer colder water than most other albatrosses, and they stay well away from land except at their breeding sites.
Wingspan: 180-220 cm
Length: 70-85 cm
Weight: 2.6-4.35 kg
Mating/Breeding: This monogamous bird breeds biennially in late September-October on steep slopes or cliffs, generally with tussock-grass. The colonies are large, maybe as many as 10.000 pairs. Lays one egg that is incubated for 69 to 78 days. The chicks fledge in about 140 days. Both sexes incubate and provision young.
Eggs: Whitish egg with fine red-brown spots at broad end.
Hibernation: Dispersing widely, some birds work the Humboldt current to Peruvian waters in the winter.
Hunting Habits: They are capable of diving as deep as 7m to chase prey, but do not do so frequently. They take their food by surface-seizing as well as surface-diving and shallow-plunging. They are not keen on following ships.
Feed on: It feeds mainly on cephalopods and fish, but also crustaceans and carrion, and lampreys are locally important.
Threats: The conservation status of grey-headed albatross is of concern as they are caught on long-lines in the Southern Ocean. Some populations are threatened as the number of birds caught on long-lines is a significant proportion of the population. Squid fisheries may also impact on the population in some areas.
Colour/Looks: Small albatross with dark ashy-grey head, throat and upper neck. Blackish upper wings, mantle and tail. White rump. White crescent behind eye. Black bill with bright yellow upper and lower ridges, shading to pink-orange at tip. White underparts. White underwing with much black on leading edge, less on trailing edge. Immature has mostly black bill and head, nape darker than adult, indistinct white eye-crescent, virtually no white on underwing.
- BirdLife International (2008) Species factsheet: Thalassarche chrysostoma
- IUCN Red List
- Hadoram Shirihai, A complete guide to Antarctic wildlife (2002)
- David McGonigal & Lynn Woodworth, Antarctica and the Arctic. The complete encyclopedia (2001)
- Tony Soper, Antarctica. A guide to the wildlife (2000)