Antipodean Albatross (Diomedea antipodensis)

Taxonomy

Also known as Antipodes Wandering Albatross [ATWA] (e.g. Tickell 2000). Russ and Shirihai suggest that Antipodes Albatross be considered conspecific with Gibson's Albatross (Russ and Shirihai 2000).
 

Identification

Potential confusion with other great albatrosses, particularly the poorly known Amsterdam Albatross.

Field identification is poorly understood. Undoubtably the best information comes from long term banding studies (in excess of 40 yrs) undertaken by the Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association, which reveals a striking degree of sexual dimorphism (Peter Milburn, pers. com.). Old males are dark brown above and mostly white below, with a white neck and heavy blackish coronal patch. Old females are more gingery. From the recapture of birds banded as pulli on the Antipodes Islands, the SOSSA have begun to establish criteria for the identification of antipodensis in its second year (based on newly moulted body feathers). Identification of 1st years remains problematic (can we identify any 1st yr wandering-types?) and will require further study.

Females are consistently darker than males. The top of the head is solid dark brown and in females this extends on to the nape and around the neck in a loose collar. Some gave me the impression of wearing an old-fashioned leather flying helmet! Older males still retain some dark color on the crown (cap). Even in the palest individuals (old males) the upperwing never shows extensive white on the coverts.

With good views, adults can separated from juvenile Snowy [Wandering] Albatross.
 

Where and When

Believed to be endemic to the Antipodes and Campbell Island groups of New Zealand with a total breeding population of 8,500 pairs. Antipodean Albatrosses nest along the top of the rather imposing Antipodes Island, which is covered in tussock grass moorland (Tickell 2000). Steep cliffs and heavy seas make landing on Antipodes Island difficult. During my own visit (Dec 2001), we could barely see the island at all. In coming albatross would rise iin tight like raptors, slowly gaining altitude before vanishing into the mist

Several pairs also nest on around Moubray Hill and Mt. Dumas on Campbell Island. There is a report of a prospecting Antipodean Albatross at the southern end of Macquarie Island (Smith 1997).
 

Photographs on the web

Several different individals Great photos taken by Tony Palliser and posted on his pelagic web site.
 
 

Literature

Parkinson, B. (2000) Field Guide to New Zealands Seabirds. New Holland (NZ) Ltd, Auckland.

Smith, L. E. (1997) An unusual Wandering Albatross on Macquarie Island. Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association Newsletter 13: 7

Robertson, C. J. R. and Warham, J. (1994) Measurements of Diomedea exulans antipodensis and D. e. gibsoni. Bull B. O. C. 114: 132-134.

Russ, R. and Shirihai, H. (2000) The birds, marine mammals, habitat and history of the subantarctic islands off New Zealand. Alula 3(6): 82-147.

Tickell, W. L. N. (2000) Albatrosses. Yale University Press.


Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved. Angus Wilson
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