Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (Diomedea chlororhynchos)

Taxonomy

Until recently considered a subspecies of Yellow-nosed Albatross. In their checklist of Seabirds, Bourne and Casement (1993) divided the two forms of Yellow-nosed Albatross into Western Yellow-nosed Albatross (WYNA) and Eastern Yellow-nosed Albatross (EYNA). This naming system is used by Tickell 2000.

The type specimen was collected a few hundred kilometers northeast of Tristan da Cunha during Captain James Cook's 2nd circumnavigation of the globe (1772-1775). The specimen does not survive but is clearly identifiable from a painting and notes made by the George Forster (Medway, 1998).
 

Identification

The smallest albatross in the southern oceans. Has a distinctive slender appearance due to the small head and narrow black bill. Potential for confusion with Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross and Gray-headed Albatross. Separated from Gray-headed Albatross by the very narrow black margins on the underwing.

The underwing appears brilliant white with a very narrow black margin and black primaries. The margin along the leading edge is slightly thicker than on the trailing edge.

In adults, the head and neck is bluish-gray forming a clearly demarked hood that contrasts with the otherwise white underparts. The forehead and crown are slightly paler, reminiscent of Salvin's Albatross. Some also show white on the chin and throat (Enticott and Tipling, 1997). In general, the light-gray hood allows ready separation from Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross which have a completely white-head. However, the hood becomes paler with wear and some very worn adults may be hard to differentiate.

Juveniles have a white head, constrasting with a dark eye and solidly black bill (first years). With time the culminicorn turns brown and then increasingly yellow. In general, adult plumage is aquired before the bill pattern is fully established (Enticott and Tipling, 1997). Separation from juvenile Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross difficult but Altantic birds have a more prominent dark smudge around the eye.
 

Where and When

Most abundant in the subtropical and warmer subantarctic waters of the South Atlantic. Relatively abundant in the Benguela Current off the west coast of South Africa, and is attracted by the strong coastal upwelling. Uncommon in the Indian Ocean but has reached New Zealand (Enticott and Tipling, 1997). Most birds recorded in the North Atlantic are probably of this species rather than Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. For reasons that are unclear, much more regular in the western North Atlantic than in the east. The opposite seems to be true for Black-browed Albatross.

Breeds in the subtropical South Atlantic on the Tristan da Cunha group and Gough Island. Current estimates indicate 36,800 breeding pairs from a total population of 165,000 - 185,000 individuals. Eggs are laid in September and October, chicks hatch in November and December and then fledge in April-May.

The Gough Island breeding population is approximately 5000 pairs. Chicks are hatched in late November and fledge during April. Click here to read details of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross banding projects on Gough Island conducted by André Combrinck and Belinda Enslin of the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology.


Atlantic Yelllow-nosed Albatross photographed on 26 June 2001 at 2941'S, 4506'W by Fabio Olmos.
 

Photographs on the web

Adult on nest and chick near feldging Taken on Gough Island.

In flight from below Two slightly distant black-and-white shots of a vagrant at Moncton-Dieppe, Westmorland Co., in New Brunswick, Canada taken in 24 May 1993 by Stuart Tingley.

Grounded individual found in Texas Photographed by John Arvin on 28 October 1976 near Port Mansfield, Texas. Posted on the very informative Texas Bird Records Committee (TBRC) Web site.

Adult?, in flight Found at Holly Beach, Cameron Parish, Louisiana, USA, on 9 May 1970, by Joe Kennedy and Jim McDaniel. Photo by Jim McDaniel. Posted on Dan Purrington's site.

Probable adult in Maine. Series of photos by Anthony Hill of a probable adult seen near Matinicus Rock in outer Penobscot Bay, Maine, USA on 6 July 99. Images posted by Steve Mirick.
 

Literature

Enticott, J. and Tipling, D. (1997) Photographic Guide to Seabirds of the World. New Holland, London.

Langridge, H.P. (1995) First January sighting in the United States of a Yellow-nosed Albatross. Florida Field Naturalist: A Semi-annual Journal of the Florida Ornithological Society 23(3): p70.

Medway, D. G. (1998) Type specimens of albatrosses collected on Cook's second voyage. In Albatross biology and conservation. Robertson, C. and Gales, R. (Eds), Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, NSW.

Mlodinow, S.G. (1999) Southern hemisphere albatrosses in North American waters. Birders Journal 8(3): p131-141.

Tickell, W. L. N. (2000) Albatrosses. Yale University Press.



Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved. Angus Wilson
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