Shy Albatross vs White-capped Albatross

To: "'Nikolas Haass'" <>, "'Jeremy O'Wheel'" <>
Subject: Shy Albatross vs White-capped Albatross
From: "Jeff Davies" <>
Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2012 11:58:55 +1000
Nikolas is correct, 


when the outer most primary is without a white inner web and entirely dark
it shows up best in flight as a right angled step. But I can find no
evidence that it is exclusively a steadi feature or that they always show
it. Would have been handy if it worked but the feature doesn't work as far
as I can tell.


Cheers Jeff.





From: Nikolas Haass  
Sent: Wednesday, 27 June 2012 9:31 AM
To: Jeremy O'Wheel; Jeff Davies
Cc: birding-aus
Subject: Shy Albatross vs White-capped Albatross


Hi Jeremy, Jeff et al.,


I second the point about the yellow base of the culminicorn in cauta.


I also use the underprimary pattern - i.e. the 'step' in p8-p10 caused by
more solid dark grey on both webs - to ID a 'possible steadi', as opposed to
the throughout 'comb'-patterned underprimaries for a 'possible cauta'
(caused by dark grey outer webs and white inner webs). However, there seems
to be much variation and there seems to be no robust evidence at all at this
point (to my knowledge there is still nor peer-reviewed paper on this field

I disagree that this pattern is more obvious when the wing is spread. I
think the opposite: When the wing is 'overly' spread all primaries appear
bicoloured - even in a Salvin's Albatross, which normally should have a
solid dark wingtip (caused by all grey visible undersides of the primaries).






Nikolas Haass

Sydney, NSW


From: Jeremy O'Wheel <>
To: Jeff Davies <> 
Cc: birding-aus <> 
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 8:43 AM
Subject: Shy Albatross vs White-capped Albatross

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
> 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
> differences I've suggested?  I was also wondering if anybody have photos
> either species/spp. nesting at their various locations with the underwings
> visible (esp. P8-10)?
> Cheers,
> Jeremy O'Wheel
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