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Light-mantled Albatross Phoebetria palpebrata
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is classified as Near Threatened as it may be declining at a moderately rapid rate, owing to bycatch on longline fisheries and perhaps the impacts of introduced predators. Threats and population status both remain poorly known.

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: #
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

80 cm. Small sooty brown albatross. Adult: sooty brown head, throat, wings and tail; rest of upperparts ash-grey; pale brownish-grey underparts; bill (105 mm) black with blue sulcus along lower mandible; juvenile: brown scalloping on neck and back; grey eye ring instead of white; and greyish-yellow line along lower bill. Similar spp. P. fusca is darker and has yellow line along lower bill. Voice Loud shrill call becoming trumpet-like e.g.. 'piew'/'pee-arr'/'pio'; threatening call a throaty 'gaaaa'; and bill snapping.

Distribution and population
Phoebetria palpebrata has a circumpolar distribution in the Southern Ocean. It disperses over cold Antarctic waters in summer as far south as the pack ice (Weimerskirch and Robertson 1994) but ranges north into temperate and sub-tropical seas in winter. It breeds on South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), Auckland, Campbell and Antipodes islands (New Zealand), Amsterdam, St Paul, Crozet and Kerguelen islands (French Southern Territories), Heard Island (Heard and MacDonald Islands (to Australia)), Macquarie Island (Australia), and Prince Edward and Marion islands (South Africa).

Population justification
Information on population status and trend is most well known on Possession Island (Crozet Islands), where there were 916 pairs in 2006 (Delord et al. 2008) There are c.1,949 pairs in the Crozet group, 1,250 pairs on Macquarie Island (ACAP 2012), 5,000-7,500 pairs on South Georgia, 3,000-5,000 pairs on Kerguelen, c.5,000 pairs on the Auckland Islands, at least 1,600 pairs on Campbell Island, 170 pairs on the Antipodes Islands, 200-500 pairs on Heard Island (Croxall and Gales 1998; Taylor 2000), and 350 pairs on Marion Island and 129 pairs on Prince Edward Island (ACAP 2012). The total annual breeding population is estimated at 19,000-24,000 pairs, roughly equivalent to 58,000 mature individuals (and 87,000 individuals in total) in this biennially breeding species - Croxall and Gales (1998) estimated c. 21,600 pairs.

Trend justification
Population trends are poorly known. On Possession Island (Crozet), there has been a decline of 13% in 15 years (Weimerskirch and Jouventin 1998), though the population is now increasing (Delord et al. 2008). The small population on Marion Island appears to now be stable, following a decrease between 1997-2002 (Ryan et al. 2003), and may even be increasing (200 pairs in 1989, 350 pairs in 2007) (ACAP 2012). The small population on Prince Edward Island has seen a small increase from 2002-2009 (92-129 pairs) (ACAP 2012). Overall trends are uncertain as the majority of colonies have not been studied, but the species may be declining owing to bycatch on longline fisheries, plus perhaps the impacts of introduced predators at some sites; a moderately rapid population decline is precautionarily suspected to be taking place over 100 years.

Behaviour This species is a biennial breeder usually nesting solitarily or in small colonies. Most eggs are laid in October-November, hatch in December-January and chicks fledge in May-June (Croxall and Gales 1998). Egg laying is highly synchronous within each colony. Young birds are philopatric, returning to their natal colonies after 7 to 12 years (ACAP 2009). Breeding birds from Macquarie Island typically forage in shelf waters around the island; they also utilise sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters south-west of Macquarie (BirdLife International 2004). During chick-rearing, adults from South Georgia feed in Antarctic shelf and shelf-slope areas along the southern Scotia Arc and to a lesser extent in oceanic waters in the mid Scotia Sea (Phillips et al. 2005). It employs a variety of feeding strategies, including surface-seizing, surface filtering and plunging. Habitat Breeding It nests on cliff ledges, on a pedestal nest of mud and peat, lined with grass. Diet The diet is primarily composed of cephalopods and euphausiids, but birds also take fish and carrion (Thomas 1982, Cooper and Klages 1995). Foraging range Five satellite-tracked incubating birds from Macquarie Island foraged south of the Antarctic Polar Front, an average of 1,500 km from their breeding sites. Four breeding birds from South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur) followed a typical flight path (38 trips) involving a clockwise route to and from high latitude waters along the southern Scotia Arc, on average travelling 3,800 km, to a maximum range of 920 km from the colony (ACAP 2009).

Reports from New Zealand, Australia and Japan indicate that it is caught in tuna longline fisheries (39 returned from observers in New Zealand fisheries in 1996-2005, but only three since 1996) (C. J. R. Robertson in litt.2008), although data on bycatch are sparse compared to other albatross species. Introduced predators are present at all New Zealand colonies except Campbell Island and they may affect breeding success and colony distribution (Taylor 2000). Cats also affect breeding success on the Kerguelen Islands (ACAP 2009).

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II and ACAP Annex 1. Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct standardised population surveys at all key sites. Determine foraging distribution and overlap with fisheries. As a precaution, eradicate introduced predators at breeding sites.

ACAP. 2009. ACAP Species Assessment: Light-mantled Albatross Phoebetria palpebrata. Available at: #

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

Cooper, J.; Klages, N. T. W. 1995. The diets and dietary segregation of Sooty Albatrosses Phoebetriaspp. at subantarctic Marion Island. Antarctic Science: 15-23.

Crawford, R. J. M.; Cooper, J.; Dyer, B. M.; Greyling, M.; Klages, N. T. W.; Ryan, P. G.; Petersen, S.; Underhill, L. G.; Upfold, L.; Wilkinson, W.; de Villiers, M.; du Plessis, S.; du Toit, M.; Leshoro, T. M.;…authors continued in notes. 2003. Populations of surface nesting seabirds at Marion Island, 1994/95-2002/03. African Journal of Marine Science 25: 427-440.

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.

Delord, K.; Besson, D.; Barbraud, C.; Weimerskirch, H. 2008. Population trends in a community of large Procellariforms of Indian Ocean: potential effects of environment and fisheries interactions. Biological Conservation 141(7): 1840-1856.

Gales, R. 1998. Albatross populations: status and threats. In: Robertson, G.; Gales, R. (ed.), Albatross biology and conservation, pp. 20-45. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton, Australia.

Phillips, R. A.; Silk, J. R .D.; Croxall, J. P. 2005. Foraging and provisioning strategies of the light-mantled Sooty Albatross at South Georgia: competition and co-existence with sympatric pelagic predators. Marine Ecology Progress Series 285: 259-270.

Ryan, P. G.; Cooper, J.; Dyer, B. M.; Underhill, L. G.; Crawford, R. J. M.; Bester, M. N. 2003. Counts of surface-nesting seabirds breeding at Prince Edward Island, Summer 2001/02. African Journal of Marine Science 25(1): 441-451.

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

Thomas, G. 1982. The food and feeding ecology of the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross at South Georgia. Emu 82: 92-100.

Weimerskirch, H.; Jouventin, P. 1998. Changes in population sizes and demographic parameters of six albatross species breeding on the French sub-antarctic islands. In: Robertson, G.; Gales, R. (ed.), Albatross biology and conservation, pp. 84-91. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, Australia.

Weimerskirch, H.; Robertson, G. 1994. Satellite tracking of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. Polar Biology 14: 123-126.

Further web sources of information
Additional information is available on the distribution of the Light-mantled 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.

Croxall, J., Phillips, R., Robertson, C., Ryan, P.G., Stahl, J.-C., Taylor, G., Walker, K.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Phoebetria palpebrata. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016.

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 - Light-mantled albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Diomedeidae (Albatrosses)
Species name author (Forster, 1785)
Population size 58000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 12,600 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species