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Light-mantled Albatross - BirdForum Opus

Alternative Names: Light-mantled Mollymawk, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross

Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Campbell Island, New Zealand, 9 January 2017
Phoebetria palpebrata


Adult in flight
Photo © by derekh42
Southern Ocean, 01 Dec 2003

Length 79-89cm. (31-35"), Wingspan 215cm (84¾")
Adult: Sooty-brown with pale ash-grey on back extending from hindneck to rump and contrasting strongly with dark brown wings. Pale greyish-brown below, tail and primaries show pale shaft-streaks. Iris brown, incomplete white eye-ring, bill black with purplish or blue stripe on lower mandible, legs greyish or mauve.
Immature: Like adult but with dark shaft-streaks and stripe on bill yellow or grey.

Similar Species

Closely resembles Sooty Albatross. Usually paler both below and above than Sooty but pale on upperparts always more extensive, on Sooty usually confined to upper back and not extending to rump. Sooty Albatross always has a yellow stripe on bill.


Circumpolar in the Southern Oceans.

Breeds on South Georgia and on Marion, Prince Edward, Crozet, Kerguelen, Heard and Macquarie Islands, also Auckland, Campbell and Antipodes Islands.

After breeding generally more southerly than Sooty Albatross P. fusca from about 33°S southwards but reaches north to 20°S off Peru.

Accidental to North American waters with one record in California in the Pacific Ocean at Cordell Bank, 40 miles off Point Reyes, Marin County, California, on 17 July 1994[5].


Formerly lumped with Sooty Albatross.


This is a monotypic species[1]. Some authors separate birds from South Georgia as the nominate race and birds from the remainder of range as P. p. huttoni.


Nests in singly or in loose colonies on grassy clifftops and ledges on islands and present October to May. At sea for the remainder of the year and highly pelagic, rarely seen close to land. Follows ships regularly.



Breeds in southern summer with egg-laying starting in mid-September. Nest is a large tall bowl made of mud and vegetable matter on a steep hillside. Single egg, white marked with red-brown spots at larger end (102 x 66mm). Incubated by both parents for about 55-60 days and young fed by both parents. Fledges after 5 months.


Diet includes squid and fish, sometimes refuse from ships.


Clear pee-hoo uttered at nest.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. BirdLife International. 2016. Phoebetria palpebrata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22698448A93684602. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22698448A93684602.en. Downloaded on 08 March 2017
  3. Carboneras, C., Jutglar, F. & Kirwan, G.M. (2017). Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/node/52511 on 8 March 2017).
  4. Marchant, S. & Higgins, P.J. (coordinating editors) 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds. Volume 1, Ratites to ducks. Melbourne, Oxford University Press.
  5. Morlan, J. (1994). Light-mantled Sooty Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) over Cordell Banks, Marin County, California. Australasian Seabird Group Newsletter. 27:5-8. (https://fog.ccsf.edu/~jmorlan/lmal.htm).
  6. Shirihai, H. (2002) A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife. The Birds and Marine Mammals of the Antarctic Continent and the Southern Ocean. Princeton University Press: Princeton & Oxford.
  7. Waugh, S.M. 2013. Light-mantled sooty albatross. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. http://www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

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