Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis)

Laysan Albatross

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Diomedeidae | [latin] Phoebastria immutabilis | [authority] Rothschild, 1893 | [UK] Laysan Albatross | [FR] Albatros de Laysan | [DE] Laysanalbatros | [ES] Albatros de Laysan | [NL] Laysanalalbatros


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Phoebastria immutabilis PO n, c


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

White-bodied, with a dark back and wings, suggesting a huge, dark-backed gull with extra-long wings. Bill and feet dull flesh color or pale flesh-gray. Immature similar.

Listen to the sound of Laysan Albatross

[audio: Albatross.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 195 cm wingspan max.: 203 cm
size min.: 81 cm size max.: 83 cm
incubation min.: 63 days incubation max.: 67 days
fledging min.: 150 days fledging max.: 170 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Pacific Ocean : North, Central. Phoebastria immutabilis breeds at 16 sites (nine with populations of greater than 100 pairs), mostly in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (USA) and US Minor Outlying Islands, with additional small colonies in Japan and Mexico..


Open ocean. Generally forages over deep waters far from land, beyond continental shelf, and seems to concentrate in colder waters at most seasons. Nests on open sandy or grassy areas on low, flat islands.


First breeds at age of 7-
9 years. Breeding season in Hawaii extends from November to July. Elaborate courtship “dance,” performed only by first-time breeders and pre-breeders, includes many movements including bowing head, mutual preening, swinging head f
rom side to side, pointing bill straight up while calling.
Nest: Site is on open ground, preferably close to taller vegetation. Nest (begun by female, finished by both sexes) is shallow depression in ground, surrounded by built-up rim.
Clutch 1. Creamy white, spotted with brown. Incubation (by both sexes) averages 64-65 days.
Young: For 12-24 days after egg hatches, one parent stays with young while other forages for food. Nestling fed by regurgitation, by both parents. Period from hatching to departure from island averages about 165 days.

Feeding habits

Mostly squid. Small squid are apparently staple fare, as they are for some larger albatrosses of southern hemisphere. Also eats fish and fish eggs, crustaceans, some carrion and refuse.
Behavior: Forages by seizing prey near water’s surface while swimming. Does much feeding at night (when squid are closer to surface), and eyes are adapted for night vision.

Video Laysan Albatross


copyright: Curt Kessler


This species has been downlisted as recent figures suggest the breeding population has rebounded from declines in the late 1990s and early 2000s, perhaps because apparent changes in the breeding populations reflected large scale environmental conditions that affected the number of birds that returned to the colonies to nest rather than actual declines in the population. Given the difficulty of predicting long-term trends for such a long-lived species, and the number of documented threats and the uncertainty over their future effects, the species is precautionarily projected to undergo a moderately rapid population decline over three generations (84 years), and as such qualifies as Near Threatened.
Laysan Albatross status Near Threatened


Breeds on northwestern islands of Hawaiian chain. Ranges from Hawaii to North Pacific. Migration:
Most numerous off Alaska in summer, off California in winter. Strays found in interior of American Southwest are thought to be birds that moved north in Gulf of California and then attempted to continue north overland.

Distribution map

Laysan Albatross distribution range map

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