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White-capped Albatross

Thalassarche cauta

Length: 36 inches Wingspan: 90 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: White underparts, white underwing with black edging, dark upperwing, gray back, dark tail, grayish-white head

Shy Albatross - Thalassarche cautaThe White-capped Albatross (formerly known as the Shy Albatross) is typically a bird of the southern oceans, with a breeding range that covers only three islands off the coast of Australia.  They are only very rare vagrants north of the equator, with a handful of sightings off the Pacific coast of the United States.  Definition of the species has undergone several shifts, as the Shy Albatross was once considered one species along with the White-capped Albatross, Salvin's Albatross, and the Chatham Albatross.

Habitat: Found on three rocky islands off the coast of Australia during breeding season.  At other seasons, found in the open oceans, typically far from land.

Diet: Feeds on fish, squid, crustaceans, and occasionally other food items.

Behavior: Feeds by either sitting on the ocean's surface and reaching down to grab food items when spotted, or by making shallow dives under the water in pursuit of prey.  They also commonly follow fishing vessels and fish-processing ships to consume discarded materials.

Nesting: Breeds in colonies on a handful of rocky islands. The nest is a mound of grasses, mud, roots, and moss. The female lays one egg, and both parents help to incubate the egg (approximately 2 months).  Upon hatching, both adults tend to and feed the youngster.

Song: Typically silent away from breeding colonies, including vagrants seen near North America.

Migration: Breeds on just three islands off the coast of southern Australia, Albatross Island, Pedra Branca, and Mewstone. Non-breeding birds can be found across the southern oceans, and they are only very rare vagrants north of the equator.

Similar Species: Very similar to the Salvin's Albatross, and the Chatham Albatross, all which were considered a single species until relatively recently.

Conservation Status: The Shy Albatross has a very small breeding range, breeding on just three islands, and is also susceptible to being accidentally caught and drowned by long-line fishing activities.  Because of the potential threats to the species, the IUCN lists the Shy Albatross as "Near Threatened".

Further Information: 1) Ocean Wanderers - Shy Albatross in California

2) BirdLife International - Shy Albatross

3) - Shy Albatross

Photo Information: Photo taken by putneymark - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Shy Albatross - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Shy Albatross Photos (coming soon!!)