Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross (Thalassarche carteri)

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Diomedeidae | [latin] Thalassarche carteri | [authority] Rothschild, 1903 | [UK] Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross | [FR] Albatros a bec jaune | [DE] Gelbnasenalbatros | [ES] Albatros Clororrinco | [NL] Indische geelsnavelalbatros


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Thalassarche carteri IO s


Albatrosses are the ‘largest’ birds in terms of wingspan. Royal Abatrosses, for instance, may reach a wing span of almost 3.5m, which make them look like feathered sail plaines. They are also the largest members of the tubenose family. Only the smallest albatross species are equalled in size by the Giant Petrels (Macronectes). Albatrosses occur in all oceans, except the northern part of the Atlantic. In ancient times they were also present in that part of the world, but nowadays only an occasional straggler find its way to the North Atlantic. Most of the 24 species are Southern Hemisphere breeders, only three actually breed north of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean.
Albatross taxonomy is subject of discussion for a long time, and has been at times rather chaotic. Based on external characters: plumage patterns, tail shapes, bill structure (size, organization of the plates and coloration) albatrosses were, until recently, divided in 13-14 species in four ‘natural groups’: the Great Albatrosses, the Mollymawks, the North Pacific Albatrosses, grouped in the genus Diomedea and the Sooty Albatrosses Phoebastria. More recently DNA-analyses supports the division in four distinct groups but the were elevated to a generic status and has led to a splitting into 24 species: Great Albatrosses Diomedea (7 species), the Northern (Pacific) Albatrosses Phoebastria (4 species), the southern Mollymawks Thalassarche (11 species) and the Sooty Albatrosses Phoebetria (2 species). Recently this taxonomy is challenged by who proposed to lump some of the ‘species’ again based on their molecular analysis. Since then the discussion flared up and has not ended yet. Some list six species of Great Albatrosses, including two subspecies of Antipodian Albatross.

Physical charateristics

Smallest, black-and-white albatross. Adult has very pale grey or white head and nape. Dark grey mantle, upperwing and tail. White rump and underparts. White underwing with black tip and narrow margin at leading edge. Black bill with yellow upper ridge, with reddish tip. Juvenile has white head and black bill. Very pale head distinguishes adults from more grey-headed Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. chlororhynchos. Juveniles difficult. Separated from other albatrosses by whiter underwing and absence of the thumbmark of Shy Albatross T. cauta, White-capped Albatross T. steadi, Chatham Albatross T. eremita and Salvin’s Albatross T. salvini

wingspan min.: 190 cm wingspan max.: 210 cm
size min.: 74 cm size max.: 80 cm
incubation min.: 68 days incubation max.: 72 days
fledging min.: 110 days fledging max.: 120 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Indian Ocean : South. Thalassarche carteri breeds on Amsterdam, Crozet Islands, Kerguelen Islands, and St Paul Islands (French Southern Territories) and on Prince Edward Island (South Africa). In addition, two breeding pairs were recorded on The Pyramid in 2007.


It breeds on slopes or cliffs, typically in bare, rocky areas but sometimes in tussock-grass and ferns, otherwise pelagic


The Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross is a colonial breeder. It breeds annually, and the adults begin breeding at the age of eight years. A mud nest is built in bare rocky areas or in tussock grass or ferns, and a single egg is laid. the nesting season begins in August, with laying occurring around September/October. Incubation lasts around 70 days. After hatching the chick takes around 115 days to fledge.

Feeding habits

It catches prey by surface seizing and shallow diving. It feeds mainly on fish and squid, and less frequently on crustaceans. Satellite-tracking of birds from Amsterdam Island has shown that breeding birds forage up to 1,500 km from the colony


This species is listed as Endangered on the basis of an estimated very rapid ongoing decline over three generations (71 years), based on data from the population stronghold on Amsterdam Island. This decline is the result of adult mortality and poor recruitment owing to interactions with fisheries and disease.
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross status Endangered


Breeds on islands in the south-west Indian Ocean, dispersing across the South Indian Ocean in the non-breeding season, mainly between 25-50 degrees South. It is common off the southern and eastern coasts of South Africa, while more scarce off the northern Cape and southern Mozambique.

Distribution map

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross distribution range map

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