Salvins Albatross (Thalassarche salvini)

Salvins Albatross

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Diomedeidae | [latin] Thalassarche salvini | [authority] Rothschild, 1893 | [UK] Salvins Albatross | [FR] Albatros de Salvin | [DE] Weisskappenalbatros | [ES] Albatros Frentiblanco | [NL] Salvinalbatros


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Thalassarche salvini IO, PO Bounty Is, w Snares Is


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

Medium-sized, black-and-white albatross with dark thumbmark at base of leading edge of underwing. Adult, silver-grey crown, chin. Grey face, throat, upper mantle. Grey-black back, upperwing, tail. White rump. White underparts with black thumbmark on underwing, narrow leading and trailing wing edges and wing tip. Pale grey-green bill with pale yellow upper ridge, brighter yellow tip to upper mandible, dark spot at tip of lower mandible. Juvenile, grey areas more extensive, blue-grey bill with black tips to both mandibles. Adult T. salvini has greyer head than White-capped Albatross T. steadi and yellow bill culmen ridge, plus dark mandibular spot. Juvenile T. salvini has more extensive black on underwing tip than T. cauta. Chatham Albatross T. eremita has bright yellow bill and greyer head and crown

Listen to the sound of Salvins Albatross

[audio: Albatross.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Frank Lambert

wingspan min.: 220 cm wingspan max.: 256 cm
size min.: 90 cm size max.: 99 cm
incubation min.: 68 days incubation max.: 75 days
fledging min.: 115 days fledging max.: 125 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean : Bounty Islands, West Snares Islands. Thalassarche salvini breeds on the Bounty Islands (nine islands and islets), Western Chain islets (Snares Islands), and The Pyramid and The Forty-Fours (Chatham Islands), New Zealand and has bred at least once on Ile des Pingouins (Crozet Islands, French Southern Territories).


It breeds mostly on small, bare rocky islands. The nest is a muddy pedestal made of dried mud, feathers and some bird bones


Salvin’s albatross is thought to breed annually, with adults returning to their breeding colonies in September, where nests are densely constructed in close proximity (one nest per 1.9m2). Eggs are laid in early October and are incubated for about 77-85 days. Feeding stints last from 1 day to a week. The chicks fledge after about 4 months. Breeding adults forage over the shelf waters around the colonies. Clutch size 1 egg.

Feeding habits

It feeds mainly on cephalopods and fish.

Video Salvins Albatross


copyright: Brooke Clibbon


This species may have undergone a rapid decline, but different census methods make a comparison of the available data potentially misleading. However, breeding is largely restricted to one tiny island group, where it is susceptible to stochastic events. It is therefore classified as Vulnerable.
No introduced predators are present on the islands, but they are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events. Small numbers are caught on tuna longliners in New Zealand waters, but it may also be exposed to longline operations elsewhere in the Southern Ocean. Trawlers within New Zealand waters are currently estimated to kill more Salvin’s Albatross than longliners
Salvins Albatross status Vulnerable


Race cauta occurs commonly off S Australia and South Africa, but migratory strategy and route not well known; race salvini moves E to W coast of S America, where is common in zone of Humboldt Current; race eremita virtually sedentary, dispersing only to waters around Chatham Is; breeding adults of migratory races probably do not disperse far from nesting grounds. Records in N Hemisphere off Pacific coast of N America (Washington) and in N Red Sea (Elat, Israel).

Distribution map

Salvins Albatross distribution range map

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