Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata)

Waved Albatross

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Diomedeidae | [latin] Phoebastria irrorata | [authority] Salvin, 1883 | [UK] Waved Albatross | [FR] Albatros des Galapagos | [DE] Galapagosalbatros | [ES] Albatros de las Galapagos | [NL] Galapagosalbatros


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Phoebastria irrorata PO Galpagos Is, coastal Ecuador


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 albatross with white head, tinged buff-yellow on crown and nape. Chestnut-brown upperparts finely barred, coarser over rump. Brown upperwing, back and tail. Whitish breast, remainder of underparts barred, like upperparts. Whitish underwing, browner axillaries, brown around margins. Dull yellow bill. Bluish feet project beyond tail in flight. Juvenile like adult but with whiter head

Listen to the sound of Waved Albatross

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/PROCELLARIIFORMES/Diomedeidae/sounds/Waved Albatross.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Scott Olmstead

wingspan min.: 230 cm wingspan max.: 240 cm
size min.: 85 cm size max.: 93 cm
incubation min.: 57 days incubation max.: 63 days
fledging min.: 160 days fledging max.: 175 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Pacific Ocean : Galapagos Islands, coastal Ecuador. Phoebastria irrorata breeds on south Espanola Island in the Galapagos Islands, and (perhaps) on Isla de la Plata off Manabi province, Ecuador


It nests on sparsely vegetated areas with lava surrounded by boulders but also, more recently, in thick scrub vegetation.


This species breeds annually, arriving at colonies in late March and laying from mid-April to late June. Chicks fledge between late December and early January. The age of first breeding is at four-six years of age, but individuals return to colonies, typically late in the season, from two years of age. A pair of albatross will lay one egg in a depression on bare ground between April and June, where it is incubated for almost two months. The newly hatched chicks have blackish-brown down, and after two weeks they are left in ?nursery groups’ whilst the parents go fishing and return to feed them pre-digested oily fish liquid. About 167 days after hatching they are developed enough to fly, and around January the young will leave the colony and spend an astonishing six years at sea, feeding and scavenging. After this time, they will return to the island to find a mate and breed. These large birds can live for up to 30 years They are monogamous and bond for life.

Feeding habits

It feeds on squid, fish and crustaceans, but recent studies have shown that scavenging food items that other species (such as cetaceans and boobies) have disgorged may be an important feeding strategy

Video Waved Albatross


copyright: Anna Motis


This species is classified as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small breeding range, essentially confined to one island, and evidence suggests that it has experienced a substantial recent population decline.
Recent studies indicate lower adult annual survival during 1995-2005 than estimates from the 1960s as the species is suffering mortality within some inshore fisheries through intentional harvesting for human consumption and incidental bycatch. This is supported by reports which suggest that the level of harvesting by fishers to supply food and feather markets has increased dramatically in recent years. Around the Galapagos Islands, the transition from traditional to more modern fishing techniques such as longlining may pose a threat, as there is recent evidence of an increasing propensity for the species to follow fishing vessels.
Waved Albatross status Critically Endangered


Birds from Galapagos leave islands Jan-Mar. Dispersing E to waters of Humboldt Current off Ecuador and Peru, mainly between 4 degrees N and 12degrees S. Immatures probably remain in this area until ready to breed.

Distribution map

Waved Albatross distribution range map

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