Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata)

Light-mantled Albatross

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Diomedeidae | [latin] Phoebetria palpebrata | [authority] Forster, 1785 | [UK] Light-mantled Albatross | [FR] Albatros fuligineux | [DE] Graumantel-Russalbatros | [ES] Albatros Tiznado | [NL] Roetkopalbatros


Monotypic species


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

Small sooty brown albatross. sooty brown head, throat, wings and tail; rest of upperparts ash-grey; pale brownish-grey underparts; bill (105 mm) black with blue sulcus along lower mandible; juvenile: brown scalloping on neck and back; grey eye ring instead of white; and greyish-yellow line along lower bill. P. fusca is darker and has yellow line along lower bill.

Listen to the sound of Light-mantled Albatross

[audio: Albatross.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 183 cm wingspan max.: 218 cm
size min.: 79 cm size max.: 89 cm
incubation min.: 65 days incubation max.: 72 days
fledging min.: 140 days fledging max.: 170 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Southern Ocean : widespread. Phoebetria palpebrata has a circumpolar distribution in the Southern Ocean. It disperses over cold Antarctic waters in summer as far south as the pack ice but ranges north into temperate and sub-tropical seas in winter. It breeds on South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), Auckland, Campbell and Antipodes islands (New Zealand), Amsterdam, St Paul, Crozet and Kerguelen islands (French Southern Territories), Heard Island (Heard and MacDonald Islands (to Australia)), Macquarie Island (Australia), and Prince Edward and Marion islands (South Africa).


Breeding birds from Macquarie Island typically forage in shelf waters around the island; they also utilise sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters south-west of Macquarie. During chick-rearing, adults from South Georgia feed in Antarctic shelf and shelf-slope areas along the southern Scotia Arc and to a lesser extent in oceanic waters in the mid Scotia Sea


This species is a biennial breeder usually nesting solitarily or in small colonies. Most eggs are laid in October-November, hatch in December-January and chicks fledge in May-June1. Egg laying is highly synchronous within each colony. Young birds are philopatric, returning to their natal colonies after 7 to 12 years. It nests on cliff ledges, on a pedestal nest of mud and peat, lined with grass. Both sexes incubate alternately in shifts that vary from a day or two up to nearly a month in length. The incubation period is 65-72 days. After hatching in December or January, which takes 3 to 5 days, the chicks are brooded in shifts for about 20 days, following which they are left alone in the nests while the adults forage, returning to feed the chicks by regurgitation every 2-3 days. The entire nestling period from hatching to fledging, which occurs in May or June, lasts 140-170 days. Pairs form committed pair-bonds which may last for decades, being renewed through complex courtship displays at the breeding site

Feeding habits

The diet is primarily composed of cephalopods and euphausiids, but birds also take fish and carrion. It employs a variety of feeding strategies, including surface-seizing, surface filtering and plunging.

Video Light-mantled Albatross


copyright: Helmut Schenkel Brunner


This species is classified as Near Threatened as it may be declining at a moderately rapid rate, owing to bycatch on longline fisheries and perhaps the impacts of introduced predators. Threats and population status both remain poorly known.
Reports from New Zealand, Australia and Japan indicate that it is caught in tuna longline fisheries, although data on bycatch are sparse compared to other albatross species. Introduced predators are present at all New Zealand colonies except Campbell Island and they may affect breeding success and colony distribution. Cats also affect breeding success on the Kerguelen Islands.
Light-mantled Albatross status Near Threatened


Disperses over temperate waters of S Atlantic and Indian Oceans 30-60 degrees S, normally from Argentina E to Tasmania, occasionally to New South Wales; vagrant to E Pacific, 90 degrees W.

Distribution map

Light-mantled Albatross distribution range map

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