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Southern Royal Albatross Diomedea epomophora
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Although current population trends are assumed to be stable, this species qualifies as Vulnerable because it has a very small range, breeding on four islands, although largely confined to just one, with a fifth mainland population comprising only hybrid birds. It is therefore highly susceptible to stochastic effects and human impacts.

Taxonomic source(s)
Brooke, M. de L. 2004. Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
Robertson, C. J. R.; Nunn, G. B. 1998. Towards a new taxonomy for albatrosses. In: Robertson, G.; Gales, R. (ed.), Albatross biology and conservation, pp. 13-19. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton, Australia.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

Taxonomic note
Diomedea epomophora (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into D. epomophora and D. sanfordi following Robertson and Nunn (1998) and Brooke (2004).

115 cm. Huge, white-and-black albatross. Juvenile, white head, neck, upper mantle, rump and underparts. White mantle flecked black. Dark black-brown upperwing with white flecks on coverts and white leading edge. White tail, tipped black-brown. White underwing with black tip. With maturity, back and tail become white. Starting at leading edge near shoulder, upperwing-coverts become increasingly white. All ages, light pink bill (darker pink when chick-rearing) with black cutting edge on upper mandible. Legs flesh. Similar spp. Adult males are whitest albatrosses. Northern Royal Albatross D. sanfordi has different underwing pattern, no white on upperwing, and dark leading edge (C. J. R. Robertson in litt. 2008).

Distribution and population
Diomedea epomophora breeds on Campbell Island (99% of the total population), on Adams, Enderby and Auckland Islands (Auckland Islands group), and on Taiaroa Head (Otago Peninsula, South Island), New Zealand. The Campbell population was estimated at 7,800 breeding pairs in 2004-2008 (ACAP 2009). In 2001, 69 pairs were present on Enderby (Childerhouse et al. 2003), and c.20 breed on Auckland and Adams Islands combined (Croxall and Gales 1998). No pure-bred D. epomophora are present at Taiaroa Head (Heather and Robertson 1997, Taylor 2000). The species circumnavigates the Southern Ocean after breeding (Croxall and Gales 1998), but is most commonly recorded in New Zealand and South American waters (Marchant and Higgins 1990). Breeding adults forage from the South Island southwards to the Campbell Plateau (Waugh et al. 2002) and north to the Chatham Rise. Non-breeding birds forage on the west and east coast of South America (Moore and Bettany 2005), generally between 30-55°S (ACAP 2009). Whole island censuses on Campbell Island in 1994-1995 and study plot censuses in 1996-1997 indicate that the population is likely to be stable, or possibly increasing (Moore et al. 1997).

Population justification
The Campbell population is estimated at 7,855 breeding pairs between 2004-2008 (ACAP 2009). In 2001, 69 pairs were present on Enderby (Childerhouse et al. 2003), and c.20 breed on Auckland and Adams Islands combined (Croxall and Gales 1998). An estimate of c7,900 annual breeding pairs is equivalent to c.27,200 mature individuals, based on the ratio used by Croxall and Gales (1998).

Trend justification
Whole island censuses on Campbell Island in 1994-1995 and study plot censuses in 1996-1997 indicate that the population is likely to be stable, or possibly increasing (Moore et al. 1997).

Behaviour Breeding is biennial if a chick is successfully reared. Birds return to colonies in October and eggs are laid from late November to late December. Chicks hatch from early February to early March, and fledge in early October to early December. Age of first return to colonies is at least 5 years and the age of first breeding is thought to be around 6-12 years old (ACAP 2009). Habitat Breeding It nests on tussock grassland slopes, ridges, and plateaus (Marchant and Higgins 1990, Heather and Robertson 1997). Diet It feeds primarily on squid and fish, supplemented by salps, crustacea and carrion (Imber 1999). Foraging range During incubation, breeding birds from Campbell Island foraged mostly within 1,250 km of the colonies over shallow (<1500 m deep) shelf and shelf break waters of the Campbell Plateau north to southern New Zealand and over the Chatham Rise, commuting directly to locally productive sites (ACAP 2009).

The population is thought to be recovering after human predation, farming and introduced mammals caused reductions in all populations until the 1930s, extirpating the Enderby and Auckland Islands populations by the late 1800s (Heather and Robertson 1997). Pigs and cats still take eggs and chicks on Auckland Island. On Campbell and Enderby Dracophyllum scrub is spreading, possibly due to climatic warming, and may reduce breeding habitat. A possible decrease in the population during the 1970s - early 1980s coincided with the peak in long-line fishing in the New Zealand region (Moore and Bettany 2005). Southern Royal Albatross are caught by longliners and trawlers in Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans, and off the east and west coasts of South America (Taylor 2000, Moore and Bettany 2005, ACAP 2009). Although reported bycatch numbers of D. epomophora in New Zealand fisheries have been relatively low, with 14 individuals observed killed in surface longlines and trawls between 1998 and 2004, observer coverage in this period was less than 5% of total fishing effort. Similarly, mortalities observed in the Argentine longline fleet along the Patagonian Shelf between 1999 and 2001 comprised on average 1.4% (0-6.1%) of the 901 seabirds caught in total. However, the estimated annual seabird bycatch in this fishery may be in the thousands (ACAP 2009).

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II and ACAP Annex 1. Cattle and sheep have been removed from Campbell, and cattle, rabbits and mice have been eradicated from Enderby. Rats were eradicated from Campbell in 2001, and an expedition in 1993 found no evidence of them persisting (P. Moore in litt. 2003). Almost 36,000 birds have been banded on Campbell since the 1940s, but since 2006 bands are being removed, except in two study colonies. Two study areas on Campbell were monitored annually in the 1990s (P. Moore in litt. 2003). All islands are nature reserves and, in 1998, were declared a World Heritage Site. Conservation Actions Proposed
Census the Campbell and Enderby colonies at 10-year intervals. Monitor vegetation change on Campbell and Enderby and assess its effect on habitat availability. Eradicate pigs and cats from Auckland Island (Taylor 2000).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

ACAP. 2009. ACAP Species Assessment: Southern Royal Albatross Diomedea epomophora. Available at: #

Childerhouse, S.; Robertson, C.; Hockly, W.; Gibbs, N. 2003. Royal Albatross (Diomedea epomophora) on Enderby Island, Auckland Islands.

Croxall, J. P.; Gales, R. 1998. Assessment of the conservation status of albatrosses. In: Robertson, G.; Gales, R. (ed.), Albatross biology and conservation, pp. 46-65. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton, Australia.

Heather, B. D.; Robertson, H. A. 1997. The field guide to the birds of New Zealand. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Imber, M. J. 1999. Diet and feeding ecology of the Royal Albatross Diomedea epomophora - king of the shelf break and inner slope. Emu 99: 200-211.

Marchant, S.; Higgins, P. J. 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds, 1: ratites to ducks. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Moore, P. J.; Scott, J. J.; Joyce, L. J.; Peart, M. 1997. Southern Royal Albatross Diomedea epomophora epomophora census on Campbell Island, 4 January-6 February 1996, and a review of population figures.

Moore, P.J.; Bettany, S.M. 2005. Band recoveries of Southern Royal Albatrosses (Diomedea epomophora) from Campbell Island, 1943-2003. Notornis 52: 195-205.

Taylor, G. A. 2000. Action plan for seabird conservation in New Zealand. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Waugh, S.; Troup, C.; Filippi, D.; Weimerskirch, H. 2002. Foraging zones of Southern Royal Albatrosses. Condor 104: 662-667.

Further web sources of information
Additional information is available on the distribution of the Southern Royal Albatross from the Global Procellariiform Tracking Database (

Australian Govt - Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 - Recovery Outline

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Anderson, O., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Small, C., Sullivan, B., Symes, A.

Moore, P., Robertson, C., Stahl, J.-C., Taylor, G., Walker, K.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Diomedea epomophora. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Diomedeidae (Albatrosses)
Species name author Lesson, 1825
Population size 27200 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 63,400,000 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species