Wandering albatross

Wandering albatross
Wandering albatross (Photo: E Woehler)

Vital statistics

Scientific name: Diomedea exulans

Appearance: Adults have a white head, neck and body, a wedge-shaped tail, and a large pink beak. Juveniles have mostly dark plumage, that gradually whitens with age.

Wingspan: More than 3 m

Weight: 6 – 11 kg, females smaller

Length: 1 – 1.3 m, females smaller

Breeding age: Around 9 years

Breeding frequency: Once every 2 years

Breeding season: Extended breeding season, begins in mid summer and concludes the following summer

Longevity: Individuals can probably live to more than 50 years

Foraging statistics

What do I eat? Fish, cephalopods, jellyfish, and on rare occasions crustaceans. Also penguin and seal carrion.

What eats me? There are no known predators.

Range trip time: Foraging trips can last for 50 days at a time but tend to be much shorter during the breeding season.

Range trip length: Foraging trips by breeding birds have exceeded 18,000 km.

Distribution & abundance

Distribution: Circumpolar distribution, with breeding recorded from six subantarctic island groups. During non-breeding season, can migrate great distances in all directions and extend northward into temperate waters (e.g. over waters around southern Australia and South America). Found breeding on Heard Island in the 1980s at Cape Gazert but no subsequent breeding records. The individual observed originated at Macquarie Island and it was believed that the species may be attempting to establish at Heard Island at the time. On-going monitoring and surveys include visits to potential nesting sites on Heard Island.

Abundance: Globally decreasing due to bycatch in long line fisheries throughout the Southern Ocean. The breeding status at Heard Island remains indeterminate. A single banded male was reported nesting in 1980, and was re-sighted in 1986/87 and 1987/88. There were more than 210 sightings of wandering albatrosses were recorded at sea around Heard Island in the period 1980/81 – 2000/01.

Conservation status

The species is a listed threatened (vulnerable), marine and migratory species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and is listed under several international conservation agreements, including the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention) and Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Japan for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Birds in Danger of Extinction and their Environment (JAMBA).

The species is also covered by a number of conservation plans, including the Recovery Plan for Albatrosses and Giant Petrels, Threat Abatement Plan for the Incidental Catch (or By-catch) of Seabirds During Oceanic Longline Fishing Operations and Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000.

General comments

Nearly 90% of individuals die before reaching sexual maturity.

This page was last modified on 28 February 2005.