RE: [BIRDING-NZ] Possible White-capped Albatross 1st for Peru

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Subject: RE: [BIRDING-NZ] Possible White-capped Albatross 1st for Peru
From: "Gunnar Engblom" <>
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2004 10:13:23 +1100 (EST)
July 10 2003
Date: Thu, 22 Jan 2004 17:39:46 -0500
Organization: Kolibri Expeditions
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Thanks everyone for the input. (and welcome Aus-birders to this
Everyone on Birding-NZ agrees it does look like a White-capped
Albatross. Since it would be a first documented for Peru, I would like
some additional thoughts on some of the more detailed input I have
received. Once again the pictures can be found on
<>  (click pics and files and ID) The photos
are a bit over-exposed. I was however already in the field feeling that
this particular bird was much lighter on the head than the other
Salvin=B4s and therefore concentrated on documenting it. All photos
depicted as White-capped show the same individual. The two additional
photos of Salvin=B4s is just one bird.

Tony Pym writes:

Q. How well do you know cuata and salvini forms of Shy albatross?
A. I have seen many of cauta, steadi and salvini, off New Zealand. I
have not seen eremita. Within the Shy Albatross complex these forms are
generally called, in the same order, Shy (or Tasmanian), White-capped,
Salvin's and Chatham (or Chatham Island). Note that White-capped
Albatross is steadi, and not cauta (which is Shy/Tasmanian). The
nominate form, as to be expected, has kept the name Shy Albatross - this
bird breeds only on the Mewstone, Tasmania where I saw them. The two
forms cauta and steadi would appear to be conspecific, and are very
difficult to tell apart. Currently the word is that some adults (only
adults) may be separable on brightness/colour of the yellow on the bill
but at sea I found I couldn't separate these two forms in the air (but
possibly a bird on the water?) Salvin's and Chatham have, as you know,
varying grey hoods with Chatham being very dark with a deep yellow bill.

I have seen White-capped that can look like Salvin's, especially young
birds at distance. These are identified on bill but can show a distinct
cast to the head and even a neck collar. I have seen also extremely pale
Salvins (maybe bleached individuals). White-capped though does seem to
show a greater contrast with the white forehead. I have not seen a
write-up in any publication yet of all plumages for
juveniles/immatures/adults. This may be due to the uncertainty of the
status in taxonomy. Although Gary Nunn wanted (and to many people,
achieved) the albatrosses split from 14 to 24 species this has been, and
still is, highly controversial. A paper in press will dispute the
findings of Robertson and Nunn, and we will shortly see that the Shy
superspecies complex has mtDNA variation, at most, of  'only' 1.1% (and
that's between cauta and eremita!) For example salvini and eremita have
a distance of only 0.3%! Is it only two species involved, or it would
seem better to treat all the Shy Albatrosses as one again! Not good for
listers, but...  
Q. Take a look at some pictures of supposed cauta in contrast to the
salvini also photographed on the same trip.
A. Well, interesting. Like all at sea shots it's a shame its so
overexposed. There seems to be good things, like head in one shot and
underwing, in favour of Shy/White-capped but there doesn't seem any
contrast to the forecrown (maybe the light). If this is a
Shy/White-capped it cannot be adult (with the bill having a dark tip), I
believe there is some work, in writing somewhere, on variation in the
bills between the forms? This is worth searching. You could contact
Hadoram Shirihai who's working on a new book on the tubenoses. With his
normal attention to detail, he knows much more than me. Only trouble is
I don't have an Email address for him!

Alvaro Jaramillo writes (not supporting it as white-capped):
     Thanks for the additional photos posted. You know the flight 
really clarify this one, and it is not a White-capped Albatross
(cauta/steadi). If you look at the underside of the primaries, they are
white. You can see a definite contrast between the white 
coverts and the darker primaries. The pale and washed out look is
due to the captures being overexposed, although I am sure that it was 
rather pale headed bird in reality. The bill colour really isn't that
for cauta/steadi, one would expect a greyish bill with a yellow tip on
adult. Adult cauta/steadi would not show a dark spot on the tip of 
lower mandible, younger birds do, and these should not show any yellow
the bill at all. Adult salvini on the other hand do show a dark spot at
tip of the lower mandible, and often show a yellowish culminicorn
contrasting with more olive bill sides. It is true that salvini should
a darker head than this bird, but it could be explained by the bird
being a
subadult who has not renewed the head feathers, bleaching and wear would

lead to a paler head than is usual. I was hoping this was going to end
in some documented evidence that cauta/steadi does occur in South
but alas it does not. I do know that research cruises (Ainley and
have recorded White-capped Albatrosses off South America, but I do not
if this is old information and they have changed their view, or if there
any good documentation of the occurrences. Given the numbers of taxa
involved here it is also important to know if reports of "cauta" pertain
the use of the term in the narrow sense or in the inclusive sense
(including steadi, eremita and salvini). The taxonomy of these creatures
in flux and currently in the Americas they are all considered part of
same species.

Additionally Karen Baird writes (but I am not sure this can be seen in
the pictures. I could upload the video sequence though if that would
help to acertain the ID):
Very long floppy wings are an obvious difference in the field c.f.


Gunnar Engblom

PS: Did anyone in the group get any additional pictures of this bird,

Gunnar Engblom
Kolibri Expeditions - 2004 pelagic schedule from

-----Mensaje original-----
De: Ross Silcock 
Enviado el: Martes, 20 de Enero de 2004 11:45 p.m.
Asunto: Re: [BIRDING-NZ] Possible White-capped Albatross 1st for Peru

Unless the bright light is causing a problem, this bird looks like a
White-capped to me.

Ross Silcock
P.O. Box 57
Tabor, Iowa, USA  51653

New Zealand Land and Pelagic Bird Tours

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