Shy Albatross vs White-capped Albatross

To: Jeff Davies <>
Subject: Shy Albatross vs White-capped Albatross
From: "Jeremy O'Wheel" <>
Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2012 08:43:51 +1000
Thanks everyone for replies, especially those that sent photos - they were
very helpful.

My opinion, which is admittedly still based on very limited evidence is

T. cauta (Tasmanian Shy) has a yellow dot at the base of its beak when
breeding (or at some point during its life), but doesn't always have this -
so if you see a bird with this mark, I'd be happy to call it T. cauta, but
if it doesn't have it, it still could be.

T. steadi never has the yellow dot, but does have black leading underwing
primaries (probably P8-10) - however the colour of the other primaries in
both species does vary a bit, so you can get birds with those 3 primaries
black, and the rest white, or you can get ones where the difference between
those 3 and the others is almost negligible - however if they're black,
it's T. steadi.  It's also more difficult to spot this difference with
birds in flight, than when they spread their feathers a little landing and
taking off.  So ideally, to separate the species when they don't have a
yellow dot, you need a high quality photo of the underside of the primaries
landing or taking off.

However, I should add that this conclusion is based on very few photos, and
one stuffed bird, (as well as some anecdotes), so I'm definitely open to
more robust evidence.


Jeremy O'Wheel

On Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 11:21 PM, Jeff Davies <>wrote:

> G'day Jeremy,
> I have also been looking at the under-wing issue between these two for the
> last couple of years and have found equal variation of blackness in the
> under-primaries for both. The bill colour seems to be a good feature
> however. I will look closer at these two birds next year but would be very
> interested to hear any other insights into this pair you may uncover
> yourself.
> Cheers Jeff.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: 
>  On Behalf Of Jeremy
> O'Wheel
> Sent: Friday, 22 June 2012 3:10 PM
> To: birding-aus
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] Shy Albatross vs White-capped Albatross
> G'day all,
> Recently I've been having some discussion about the differences between the
> Tasmanian Shy Albatross - T. cauta - and the New Zealand White-capped
> Albatross - T. steadi (or T. cauta cauta/steadi depending on your
> taxonomy).
> Various sources seem to indicate that breeding T. cauta have a yellow spot
> at the upper base of the beak, while T. steadi never have this yellow dot.
> It has also been suggested that T. steadi has black primaries
> 8,9,10 while on T. cauta they are black and white.
> I was wondering if anybody know more about the differences, especially
> differences that can be identified in the field, or can confirm or deny the
> differences I've suggested?  I was also wondering if anybody have photos of
> either species/spp. nesting at their various locations with the underwings
> visible (esp. P8-10)?
> Cheers,
> Jeremy O'Wheel
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