email a friend
printable version
Campbell Albatross Thalassarche impavida
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species is classified as Vulnerable because breeding is restricted to a single location, where it is susceptible to potential human impacts and stochastic events. Although numbers decreased steeply between the 1970s and 1980s owing to interactions with fisheries, the population is now thought to be increasing, although there has not been a census since 1996

Taxonomic source(s)
Brooke, M. de L. 2004. Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
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.

Taxonomic note
Diomedea melanophris (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into melanophrys and impavida and both placed in the genus Thalassarche following Robertson and Nunn (1998) and Brooke (2004).

88 cm. Medium-sized, black-and-white albatross with pale yellow iris. Black triangle around eye reaches base of bill. Adult, white head, neck, rump, underparts. Black upperwing, back, tail. White underwing with broad black edging. Yellow bill, becoming orange at tip. Juvenile, brown-grey bill with black tip, dark eyes, partial or complete band extending from mantle around chest, more extensive black on underwing. Similar spp. Black-browed Albatross T. melanophrys has less extensive eyebrow, dark eye, less black on underwing. Grey-headed Albatross T. chrysostoma has grey head and yellow-ridged bill.

Distribution and population
Thalassarche impavida breeds only on the northern and western coastline of Campbell Island (111 km2) and the tiny offshore islet, Jeanette Marie, New Zealand. The total population was estimated to be 19,000-26,000 breeding pairs (Moore and Moffat 1990), with the most recent censuses in 1995-1997 giving an estimate of 24,600 pairs (Moore 2004). Numbers decreased steeply between the 1970s and 1980s: one colony declined at a rate of 5.9% per year between 1966 and 1981, and 10.5% per year between 1981 and 1984. However, numbers have been either stable or increasing slightly since 1984 (Waugh et al. 1999a),with a 1.8% increase recorded in selected colonies between 1992 and 1997 (Moore 2004). Its non-breeding range is confined to southern Australian waters, the Tasman Sea and the south Pacific Ocean (Croxall and Gales 1998, Waugh et al. 1999b). Breeding adults forage from South Island, New Zealand, and Chatham Rise southwards to the Ross Sea (Waugh et al. 1999c, BirdLife International 2004).

Population justification
The breeding population is estimated to number 24,600 pairs, based on surveys from 1995-1997.

Trend justification
Numbers decreased steeply in the 1970s and 1980s, attributed to bycatch longline fisheries. One colony declined at a rate of 5.9% per year between 1966 and 1981, and 10.5% per year between 1981 and 1984, equating to an overall population reduction of 72% during that period. However, numbers have been either stable or increasing slightly since 1984 (Waugh et al. 1999a), with a 1.8% increase recorded in selected colonies between 1992 and 1997 (Moore 2004), although the last census was in 1996/7. The trend over the past three generations (85 years) is assumed to be negative, but, based on the decrease in fishing effort following a peak in 1971-1983, the population is considered likely to continue to expand.

Behaviour This species breeds annually and is present in colonies from April to May. Eggs are laid from late September to early October, hatching mostly in early December and chicks fledge from mid April to early May (ACAP 2009). Mean annual productivity was 66% between 1984 and 1994. Mean adult survivorship was 94.5% between 1984 and 1995. Birds return to land at age 5 (ACAP 2009) and the average age of first breeding is 10 years (Waugh et al. 1999a). It feeds by surface-seizing and is probably capable of shallow dives (ACAP 2009). Habitat Breeding Campbell Albatross nests on ledges and steep slopes covered in low native grasses, tussocks and mud (Brooke 2004). Diet It feeds mainly on fish, also on squid, crustaceans, gelatinous organisms and carrion (Cherel et al. 1999). The diet during the chick-rearing period is dominated by juvenile southern blue whiting Micromesistius australis (ACAP 2009). Foraging range Satellite-tracking studies indicated that birds provisioning chicks predominantly foraged over neritic waters during trips lasting less than four days, with some long trips of 8-21 days over oceanic waters. The foraging range during short trips extended 150-640 km from the breeding colony, mainly over subantarctic waters within the 1,000 m depth contour on the Campbell Plateau. Longer trips extended up to 2,000 km from the colony, ranging from subtropical to Antarctic waters, but mainly to the Polar Frontal Zone or to the east of the Campbell Plateau. This plasticity in foraging behaviour is in contrast to the exclusively neritic feeding trips observed in T. melanophrys at some sites, though not others (ACAP 2009).

Large numbers have been caught by tuna longline vessels, mostly juveniles in New Zealand waters, but also adults in Australian waters (Heather and Robertson 1997, Croxall and Gales 1998, Taylor 2000). The population decline coincided with the development of a large-scale fishery that peaked in New Zealand waters during 1971-1983. The present gradual increase in numbers may be due to a substantial decline in fishing effort since 1984 (Waugh et al. 1999a). However, during 1988-1995, it still comprised 11% of all the seabirds killed on tuna longlines in New Zealand waters and returned for identification (Taylor 2000), and 13% of all banded birds caught in Australian waters (Gales et al. 1998). It is also attracted to offal discarded from trawlers, and is regularly drowned in New Zealand trawl fisheries (Heather and Robertson 1997, Baird and Smith 2007) .

Conservation Actions Underway
ACAP Annex 1. The species was first studied in the 1940s. Feral sheep were eradicated from the north of Campbell Island, where the nesting colonies are, in 1971, and then from the island itself in 1991. Research includes studies on population dynamics, colony distribution, biology, diet and foraging (Taylor 2000). The islands are a national nature reserve, and part of a World Heritage Site, declared in 1998. Rats and cats were eradicated from Campbell in 2001, and an expedition in 2003 found no evidence of them persisting (P. Moore in litt. 2003). Conservation Actions Proposed
Complete ground census of colonies for three consecutive years every 10 years, and repeat photopoints at least every five years. Search intensively for banded birds in two consecutive years at five- year intervals. Complete research to clarify fisheries interactions. Further develop mitigation devices/techniques to minimise fisheries bycatch in trawl and pelagic longline fisheries.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

ACAP. 2009. ACAP Species Assessment: Campbell Albatross Thalassarche impavida. Available at: #

Baird, S. J.; Smith. M. H. 2007. Incidental capture of seabirds species in commercial fisheries in New Zealand waters, 2003-2004 and 2004-2005.

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.

Cherel, Y.; Waugh, S.; Hanchet, S. 1999. Albatross predation of juvenile southern blue whiting (Micromesicus australis) on the Campbell Plateau. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 33: 437.

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.

Gales, R.; Brothers, N.; Reid, T. 1998. Seabird mortality in the Japanese tuna longline fishery around Australia, 1988-1995. Biological Conservation 86: 37-56.

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

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. 2004. Abundance and population trends of mollymawks on Campbell Island.

Moore, P. J.; Moffat, R. D. 1990. Mollymawks on Campbell Island.

Nunn, G. B.; Cooper, J.; Jouventin, P.; Robertson, C. J. R.; Robertson, G. G. 1996. Evolutionary relationships among extant albatrosses (Procellariiformes: Diomedeidae) established from complete cytochrome-b gene sequences. The Auk 113: 784-801.

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.

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

Waugh, S. M.; Sagar, P. M.; Cossee, R. O. 1999. New Zealand Black-browed Albatross Diomedea melanophrys impavida and Grey-headed Albatross D. chrysotoma banded at Campbell Island: recoveries from the South Pacific region. Emu 99: 29-35.

Waugh, S. M.; Weimerskirch, H.; Cherel, Y.; Shankar, U.; Prince, P. A.; Sagar, P. M. 1999. Exploitation of the marine environment by two sympatric albatrosses in the Pacific Southern Ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series 177: 243.

Waugh, S. M.; Weimerskirch, H.; Moore, P. J.; Sagar, P. M. 1999. Population dynamics of Black-browed and Grey-headed Albatrosses Diomedea melanophrys and D. chrysostoma at Campbell Island, New Zealand, 1942-96. Ibis 141: 216-225.

Further web sources of information
Additional information is available on the distribution of the Campbell 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
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Small, C.

Molloy, J., Moore, P., Robertson, C., Stahl, J.-C., Taylor, G.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Thalassarche impavida. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

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 - Campbell albatross (Thalassarche impavida) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Diomedeidae (Albatrosses)
Species name author Mathews, 1912
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Increasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 13 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species