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Buller's Albatross Thalassarche bulleri
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species has been listed as Near Threatened because, although it is restricted to a tiny small area when breeding, the population is stable and the islands on which it breeds are moderately widely spread so it is unlikely to become highly threatened in a short time owing to human activities or stochastic events.

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.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

Taxonomic note
Diomedea bulleri (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) is retained as a species in the genus Thalassarche following Brooke (2004) contra Robertson and Nunn (1998) who split it into T. bulleri and T. platei.

Diomedea bulleri Stotz et al. (1996), Diomedea bulleri Christidis and Boles (1994), Diomedea bulleri Collar et al. (1994), Diomedea bulleri Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993), Diomedea bulleri Turbott (1990)

79 cm. Small, grey-headed, white-and-black albatross. Adult, silvery-grey forehead. Grey head, throat. Black around and in front of eye. White crescent behind and below eye. Dark grey back, upperwing, tail. White rump, underparts. White underwing with black tip, broad, sharply-demarcated band at leading edge. Large black bill, yellow on upper, lower ridges, tip. Juvenile, darker brownish-grey head, brownish bill. Similar spp. Grey-headed Albatross T. chrysostoma has broader, less distinct black leading margin to underwing. Salvin's Albatross T. salvini is larger with different underwing pattern.

Distribution and population
Thalassarche bulleri is endemic to New Zealand. There are colonies on the Snares (8,713 pairs) and Solander (4,912) Islands in the south (Sagar et al. 1999b, Sagar and Stahl 2005), Forty-Fours (c.14,500) and Big and Little Sister (2,150) Islands in the Chatham Island group (ACAP 2009), and Rosemary Rock, Three Kings Islands (20 pairs) off North Island (Croxall and Gales 1998). This totals approximately 30,500 breeding pairs. The Snares Islands population has almost doubled since 1969, but the rate of increase has slowed in the 1990s (Sagar et al. 1999b, Sagar and Stahl 2005). The Solander Islands population appears to have remained relatively stable during 1985-1996, and has increased by around 18% during 1996-2002 (Sagar and Stahl 2005). The Chatham Island population is thought to be stable (ACAP 2009). Juveniles and non-breeding adults can disperse across the south Pacific Ocean to the west coast of South America (Stahl and Sagar 2000b, Taylor 2000, Spear et al. 2003).

Population justification
The estimated annual breeding population is 31,939 pairs, made up of 8,877 pairs on the Snares Islands, 4,912 pairs on the Solander Islands, 16,000 pairs on the Forty-Fours, 2,130 pairs on Big and Little Sister Islands in the Chatham Island group, and 20 pairs on Rosemary Rock, Three Kings Islands off North Island.

Trend justification
The Snares Islands population has almost doubled since 1969, but the rate of increase has slowed in the 1990s (Sagar et al. 1999b; Sagar and Stahl 2005). The Solander Islands population appears to have remained relatively stable during 1985-1996, and increased by around 18% during 1996-2002 (Sagar and Stahl 2005). Overall, the population is considered stable.

Behaviour Breeding is annual and colonial. On the Snares Islands most eggs are laid in January, hatch March to April and chicks fledge in August to September. Birds begin to return to colonies at least three years after fledging, and the average age of first breeding is 10-11 years. On the Chatham Islands, eggs are laid in October to November, hatch in January and the chicks fledge in June to July (ACAP 2009). On Little Sister, annual productivity 1994-1996 was 57-60%, and mean annual adult survival 1974-1995 was 93.5% (Croxall and Gales 1998). On the Snares, annual productivity 1995-98 was 70.8% (Sagar et al. 2002), and mean annual adult survival increased from 92.0% in 1983-85 to 95.5% in 1992-97 (Sagar et al. 2000). Breeding and non-breeding adults forage between 40 and 50°S from Tasmania eastwards to the Chatham Rise (Stahl et al. 1998, Stahl and Sagar 2000a, b, BirdLife International 2004, Sagar and Stahl 2005). Females from the Snares Islands tend to conduct longer, more distant foraging trips during pre-egg and brood guard periods of the breeding cycle, than males (BirdLife International 2004). Birds usually forage individually but large numbers may gather to feed at concentrated food sources such as swarms of crustaceans, occasionally making surface plunges or shallow dives (ACAP 2009). Satellite tracking studies from the Snares and Solander Islands show that the distribution of the breeding birds varies with the stage of the breeding cycle. During incubation (Jan-Mar) birds range along the shelf slope off the east and west coasts of the South Island, New Zealand, and into the Tasman Sea; during the guard stage (Mar-Apr) birds are usually found along the shelf slope and shelf areas east and west of the southern New Zealand, and during the post-guard stage (May-Aug) birds occur along the shelf slopes of both coasts of the South Island. After breeding, birds of all ages (including fledglings) migrate to slopes off Chile and Peru (ACAP 2009). Habitat Breeding It breeds in a variety of habitats including grassy meadows, tussock-covered slopes and cliffs, scrub and under forest canopy (Marchant and Higgins 1990). Diet It feeds mostly on fish, squid and tunicates, also octopuses and crustacea (West and Imber 1986, James and Stahl 2000).

A severe storm in 1985 almost completely removed soil and vegetation from the Sisters and Forty-Fours Islands. Although T. bulleri seems unaffected, further habitat degradation could result in population decreases, as has been predicted for Northern Royal Albatross Diomedea sanfordi (Croxall and Gales 1998). It is one of the more common bycatch species in the longline tuna fishery in New Zealand waters, where all birds caught are adults (Murray et al. 1993, Bartle 1999). It is also caught by squid trawlers in low numbers despite the banning of net-sonde cables in 1992 (Taylor 2000). Recent data from Chile shows that T. bulleri is one of several species caught in the pelagic longline swordfish fishery (ACAP 2009). Weka Gallirallus australis was introduced to Big Solander and may take eggs and chicks (Taylor 2000).

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II and ACAP Annex 1. Long-term studies have been initiated in all main populations (Taylor 2000). Most islands are legally protected, but all Chatham colonies are on private land. Conservation Actions Proposed
Complete an accurate census on Forty-Fours and Big Sister. Census all colonies for 2-4 consecutive years every 10 years, and Little Sister at least every five years. Develop and effectively implement mitigation devices/techniques to minimise fisheries bycatch. Establish observer coverage on fisheries east of the North Island and the Chathams. Eradicate G. australis from Big Solander Island. Obtain legal protection for Forty-Fours and Sisters Islands, and continued access for research (Taylor 2000).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

ACAP. 2009. ACAP Species Assessment: Buller's Albatross Thalassarche bulleri. Available at: #

BirdLife International. 2004. Tracking ocean wanderers: the global distribution of albatrosses and petrels. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Brooke, M. De L. 2004. Albatrosses and petrels across the world. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

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.

James, J. D.; Stahl, J. C. 2000. Diet of southern Buller's albatross (Diomedea bulleri bulleri) and the importance of fishery discards during chick-rearing. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 34: 435-454.

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

Murray, T. E.; Bartle, J. A.; Kalish, S. R.; Taylor, P. R. 1993. Incidental capture of seabirds by Japenese southern bluefin tuna longline vessels in New Zealand waters, 1988-1992. Bird Conservation International 3: 181-210.

Sagar, P. M.; Molloy, J.; Weimerskirch, H.; Warham, J. 2000. Temporal and age-related changes in survival rates of southern Buller's albatrosses (Thalassarche bulleri bulleri) at the Snares, New Zealand, 1948 to 1997. The Auk 117: 699-708.

Sagar, P. M.; Stahl, J. C.; Molloy, J. 2002. The influence of experience, pair bond duration, and partner change on breeding frequency and success in southern Buller's mollymawk (Thalassarche bulleri bulleri). Notornis 49: 145-152.

Sagar, P. M.; Stahl, J. C.; Molloy, J.; Taylor, G. A.; Tennyson, A. J. D. 1999. Population size and trends within the two populations of Southern Buller's Albatross Diomedea bulleri bulleri. Biological Conservation 89: 11-19.

Sagar, P.M.; Stahl, J.-C. 2005. Increases in the number of breeding pairs in two populations of Buller's Albatross (Thalassarche bulleri bulleri). Emu 105: 49-55.

Spear, L. B.; Ainley, D. G.; Webb, S. W. 2003. Distribution, abundance and behaviour of Buller's, Chatham Island and Salvin's Albatrosses off Chile and Peru. Ibis 145: 253-269.

Stahl, J. C.; Bartle, J. A.; Cheshire, N. G.; Petyt, C.; Sagar, P. M. 1998. Distribution and movements of Buller's albatross (Diomedea bulleri) in Australasian seas. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 25: 109-137.

Stahl, J. C.; Sagar, P. M. 2000. Foraging strategies and migration of southern Buller's albatross Diomedea b. bulleri breeding on the Solander Island, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 30: 319-334.

Stahl, J. C.; Sagar, P. M. 2000. Foraging strategies of southern Buller's albatrosses Diomedea b.bulleri breeding on The Snares, New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 30: 299-318.

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

West, J. A.; Imber, M. J. 1986. Some foods of Buller's mollymawk Diomedea bulleri. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 13: 169-174.

Further web sources of information
Additional information is available on the distribution of the Buller's Albatross from the Global Procellariiform Tracking Database (

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
Stattersfield, A., McClellan, R., Nel, D., Mahood, S., Calvert, R.

McClellan, R., Stahl, J.-C., Taylor, G., Walker, K., Molloy, J., Robertson, H., Waugh, S.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Thalassarche bulleri. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

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 - Buller's albatross (Thalassarche bulleri) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Diomedeidae (Albatrosses)
Species name author (Rothschild, 1893)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 4 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species