ALBATROSS Identification

Subject: ALBATROSS Identification
From: Janice Jenkin-Smith & Lindsay Smith <>
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 1997 21:33:15 -0700
Dear Tony Palliser & Birding-aus Seabirders,

Some SOSSA members have had questions regarding Gibson?s albatross and 
albatross identification.  As this is of great interest to many seabirders we 
decided to
put in onto birding-aus.  As the season here at Wollongong is about to start,  
(here it
is!!!).  We hope you find it useful.

There are few characteristics that may assist in the identification of the 
Albatrosses D.exulans exulans,  D.e.antipodensis,  D.e. gibsoni.

Harry Battam and Lindsay Smith generally refer to the three races as "Big White 
(D.e.exulans)  "Little Brown Jobs" (D.e antipodensis) and "Auckland Islanders, 
Albatross? (D.e.gibsoni).

The nominate race Diomedea exulans (Wandering Albatross) was for many years 
referred to
as the Snowy Albatross (D.e.chionoptera) the interpretation of Chionoptera 
being  "Snow
Wing"  Hence the name Snowy Alb (Big White Bugger).  The size of this species 
alone is
the best field character as neither of the other races come close to it.  When 
on the water, D.e.exulans sits very high out of the water, giving it a 
distinctive jizz.
 Problems arise when dealing with sub adults and females as plumage 
between these and Gibson's Albatross (D.e.gibsoni) are quite similar. Only very 
does Gibson's Albatross attain the degree of whiteness of the nominate 
D.e.exulans, very
old males of which may have a (GPI) Gibson Plumage Index score of 21.  
Generally the
maximum GPI of old male Gibson?s Albatrosses is 19.

Copies of the Gibson Plumage Index are available from SOSSA

Chris Robertson and John Warham (both of whom both are members of SOSSA) have 
the two New Zealand races of the Wandering Albatross (D.e.antipodensis and 
" Nomenclature of the New Zealand Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans".
Bull. B.O.C. 1992 112(2) pp 74-81

This is the best available description of breeding adults of both races.  These
represent the "TYPE" specimens.  Unfortunately there is little information 
published on
"plumage development" of juveniles or sub adults of either race.

In the (Battam & Smith) Pink Paper, page: 93, you will find a GPI it will be of 
assistance.  In it we summarise the plumage characteristics of the birds 
captured off
Wollongong and Bellambi, many of these birds have been recaptured several times 
over a period of many years.  On each occasion the GPI would have been recorded 
mapped.  This has given us some insight into ageing the birds.  However there 
is a great
deal of variation within individuals of similar age.

This has since been bought to our attention with the arrival of a gift from 
Peter Prince
(British Antarctic Survey) (BAS), a gift of 10.9Kilo's of known age Wandering
albatrosses juveniles to adult from Bird Island South Georgia.  These are of the
nominate race D.e.exulans (BWB) these too show a great deal of variation between

Below is a brief description of a typical breeding pair of Antipodean albatross
D.e.antipodensis of age, approx 12+ years.
This description is based on photographs and video tape take by Colin Lougheed 
on the Antipodies Islands, combined with photographs and video taken by the New 
Wales Albatross Study Group (NSWASG) at sea off Bellambi and Wollongong.

These were taken with the express purpose of making ?at sea? identification 
Male: The adult male Antipodean Albatross is a striking bird which should be 
readily identified at sea.
Upper parts, head;  forehead white, crown has a small well defined dark cap.  
face, chin
and sides of head white extends to ear coverts.  Nape and neck, white, (old 
Often smudged and mottled dirty brown in younger birds.

Back: white with brown pencilling and blotched brown, in contrast to white 
rump, upper
tail coverts white heavily pencilled dark sooty brown.  Tail sooty brown 
appearing black
at a distance.  Upper wings (outstretched) uniform dark sooty brown with white 
shafts.  Note: No white window in wing at humeral joint

General appearance at sea.  Medium to large albatross (similar in size to shy
albatross), pink bill, (bluish tip to lower mandible sometimes extending along 
edge), distinctive dark capped head, dark upper wing, whitish back extending 
secondary wing coverts and lesser coverts, below humeral joint (similar to Royal
albatross, Diomedea epomophora), Tail dark sooty brown.

Under parts;
Throat white forming a mask with the face and sides of the neck, upper neck 
mottled or finely pencilled brown.  Breast and belly white with greyish brown 
cast due
to fine pencilling, becoming mottled on flanks.  Under tail coverts greyish 
white with
dark pencilling.  Under wing White with very narrow trailing edge, dark leading 
from carpal bend to outer primaries, under wing primary coverts white, 
contrasting with
dark primaries.  Primary shafts dark in under wing.  Dark thumb mark at base of 
leading edge of the wing. (similar to Shy albatross).

Typical adult female D.e.antipodensis (breeding age).
Upper parts;  Head forehead and sides of face white. Crown dark brown Nape and 
hind neck
brown mottled whitish (base of feathers white)  Back and upper wing dark brown 
with old
feathers edged with cinnamon (worn) giving a scaled appearance.  Rump and tail 
brown. Note in flight feet extend beyond tail.

chin white, throat and breast brown usually extending along the sides at the 
base of the
wing, contrasting with, greyish white belly.  Flanks dark sooty brown. Under 
coverts mottled brown, Under tail sooty brown.
Under wing similar to male, with a greater extent of brown on sides of belly at 
base of
the wing.

At sea the female antipodean albatross would be difficult to separate from young
Gibson?s Albatross (D.e gibsoni), though the scaled effect of the worn, old 
especially on the mantle and upper back would offer a clue to it?s identity.  
We are
still working on it.

If the bird was captured.  In the hand, identification can be readily 
established from
metomorphical measurements.

Please Note :
The Antipodean Albatross is a little known and rare visitor to the waters off 
NSW.  Gibson?s Albatross is the most abundant species of Wanderer in our region.

We hope this is of assistance?.

Gibson?s Albatross might follow, depending on time.  We are currently 
attempting to get
the Five Islands Hut finished, besides Janice and I are on Holidays.  (Well we 

Cheers Lindsay & Janice.

PS.  For those of you interested is the workings of SOSSA (Wildlife Research) 
and are
interested in our quarterly newsletter (?ALBATROSS?), information sheet and 
form attached then please read on.  We have been working on albatrosses as a 
study for
the past 40 years.  (1956-1997).
                                SOSSA  " Wildlife Research "

                                INFORMATION SHEET
SOSSA Introduction:

*       SOSSA was founded by members of the New South Wales Albatross Study 
Group in
*       SOSSA was set up to be an umbrella organisation for many study groups, 
the NSWASG, concerned with the study or studies into the bio-diversity of the 
*       SOSSA is a  "Wildlife Research and Conservation Group" which consists of
dedicated people both professional and trained.  These people share a common 
and concern for the environment and the wildlife of the Southern Oceans.  Though
primarily concerned with the conservation and greater understanding of the 
seabird fauna
of this region, SOSSA is dedicated to greater knowledge of the bio-diversity of 
Southern Oceans.

History:  The New South Wales Albatross Study Group (NSWASG) grew from the work 
of J.D.
(Doug) Gibson, A.R.(Allen) Sefton and others, who began catching and marking 
Albatrosses at Bellambi NSW in 1956.  Following the passing of Doug Gibson in 
1984, the
NSW Albatross Study Group based in the Illawarra continued under the guidance 
of Harry
Battam who started banding albatrosses as an assistant to Bill Lane at Malabar 
in 1958.

*       A Wandering Albatross banded in August 1958 at Bellambi was found 
breeding on
Bird Island, South Georgia, a sub-antarctic island in the South Atlantic Ocean 
November 1958.  The NSW Albatross Study had made its first mark.
*       This original recovery was followed by several more, on the Crozet 
(French), Prince Edward Island (South African), island groups of the South 
Indian Ocean
and the Auckland and Antipodes Islands, to the south of New Zealand.
*       The NSW Albatross study is the longest continuous seabird study 
anywhere in the
world today.
*       Harry Battam is the team leader and for the past 15 years has been 
assisted by
Lindsay E. Smith another dedicated naturalist.  Lindsay's wife Janice has been 
with the team constantly for the past six years.
*       This study been privately funded by the NSWASG for the past 38 years.

Aims:   SOSSA is an organisation whose aims are to encourage naturalists both 
and professional to use standard methodology, document findings and use 
electronic data
storage for accessibility.  SOSSA will assist study groups or individuals in the
collection, preparation and presentation of data in a standard format.  SOSSA 
is willing
to assist other studies and has the resources and trained personnel that may be 
benefit to small independent studies or organisations.

Projects:  The projects and studies currently being undertaken by members of 
many and varied, several are being undertaken in conjunction with other 
and scientific bodies, which include both local and overseas institutions.
*       Outside Australia, SOSSA has a good working relationship and 
affiliations with
the British Antarctic Survey, the New Zealand Department of Conservation, The 
National de la Researche Scientifique (CNRS France) and the Percy Institute of
Ornithology (South Africa).
*       Some of the projects currently being undertaken include, research into 
movements (including deployment of transmitters for satellite tracking of 
*       Monitoring of seabird numbers and movements along the east coast of 
*       Mapping of oceanographic marine habitats, (currents and eddies etc,) in 
to Seabird distribution at sea.
*       Various studies into the breeding biology of local breeding species of 
Sea and
Shore-birds, including Fairy Penguins, Wedge-tailed and Short-tailed 
White-faced Storm-petrels, Kelp Gulls, Sooty Oystercatchers & Australian 
*       Distribution and status of cuttlefish species in Australia and the 
value of
cuttlefish as a food resource.
*     SOSSA in conjunction with the University of Wollongong and the Australian 
Sydney is conducting research into the distribution and biology of our regions 
freshwater fish in an effort to gain a greater understanding of their 
requirements and
what can be done to ensure their future survival in the face of increased 
development of
our local area.


                                APPLICATION FOR MEMBERSHIP
                (Incorporated under the Association Act,  1984)  Rule:5.1

TITLE(Mr, Mrs, Ms, Miss, Dr)   GIVEN NAMES                              SURNAME

POSTAL  ADDRESS                                                 POSTCODE
Email Address if you have one:

DATE OF BIRTH                   OCCUPATION

PHONE NUMBER                            (Home)                            (Work)



Hereby apply to become a member of the above named Southern Oceans Seabird Study

One Year Membership Fees:  Due 1st July,  1997.

Ordinary Members (single):              $25.  00                                

Student / Pensioner / Concession:       $15.  00                                

Additional Family Membership:           $ 5.  00                                

Organisation or Group Member:           $50.  00                                

Over-seas members to cover additional postage please add to your membership fee 

Donations:              $10.  - $15.  -$25.  - $50.  - $100.  - Other $         

Goods or Services Donated:
*    Please tick box if you require a copy of the Constitution
Enclosed for Postage & Handling: Aust:$2.  50.  NZ:$3.  50  Over Seas:$5.  00   

                                                Total Fee Payable:      $

       Signature of Applicant

* The SOSSA Committee reserves the right to deny membership as per constitution.
* If this applies any monies will be returned.


1.      If accepted to membership of the Association,  I agree to abide by the 
of the SOSSA Committee and to comply with the SOSSA  Constitution.

2.      I also acknowledge that neither the Association or the individual 
members shall
be liable to me for any injuries sustained by me during Association activities 
and in
regard I further acknowledge that it is my responsibility to effect my own 
insurance to
protect me against any loss which I may incur through such injury,  in respect 
to all
these matters particularly loss of income which is not covered by SOSSA.

                                                        Signature of Applicant

Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association Inc
P.O. Box 142, Unanderra NSW Australia 2526
Phone +61 042 716 004
Fax   +61 042 724 626
Mobile 018 603 007

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • ALBATROSS Identification, Janice Jenkin-Smith & Lindsay Smith <=

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU