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Short-tailed Albatross - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Andrew Whitehouse
Miyakejima, Japan, 24 February, 2019
Phoebastria albatrus


Length 89-94cm. Wingspan 213-229cm. The largest albatross in the North Pacific.
Adult: head and body white with yellowish tinge to crown and nape, in some birds more extensive and forming yellowish collar.
Upper wing mainly white with black primaries and primary coverts, secondaries and tertials but amount of black varies individually. Underwing mainly white with black tip, narrow black margin on leading and trailing edges and greyish streaking on inner coverts and Axillaries.
Tail white with black tip.
Bill massive and pink with blue tip and narrow dark line at bas extending along gape.
Legs bluish-white.
Immature: juvenile is entirely blackish-brown except for paler chin and narrow pale line below eye, bill and legs pale flesh. White on face and underparts gradually increases but retains dark collar and upperwing shows pale patches on inner greater coverts, a diagnostic character. Later, forehead becomes whiter but retains dark cap, tail-base whitens and second white patch develops on scapulars. Final pre-adult plumage is largely white head and back with dark hindcollar, dark wings with prominent white patches. May breed in this plumage.
Juvenile distinguished from Black-footed Albatross D. nigripes in massive pinkish bill, pinkish legs, less white on face and tail-base. Older birds distinguished from all other albatrosses by massive pink bill and wing-patches.


Breeds only islands south of Japan. Confirmed to breed on Torishima about 580km south of Tokyo but may also breed on Minami Kojima in the Senkaku Islands. Population is about 250 birds. Now rarely seen away from breeding sites but formerly dispersed north to Bering Sea, west to China and east to Pacific coast of North America where recorded off Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon and California but now extremely rare. Has also been recorded off Hawaii.


Diomedea vs. Phoebastria

Genera Phoebastria and Thalassarche formerly placed in the Diomedea, but now considered by virtually all authorities (Clements, Howard & Moore, AOU, BOU, SACC) to be separate genera in light of Nunn et al. (1996) and Penhallurick & Wink (2004).

This is a monotypic species[1].


Present on volcanic ash slopes of breeding island from October to June, otherwise at sea.



Squid and fish, sometimes refuse from ships.


  1. Clements, J. F., P. C. Rasmussen, T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, A. Spencer, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2023. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2023. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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