Sunday, 6 November 2011

Sooty albatross

Phoebetria fusca

(Photo from Naver Blog)

Common name:
sooty albatross (en); albatroz-sombrio (pt); albatros brun (fr); albatros ahumado (es); dunkelalbatros (de)

Order Procellariiformes
Family Diomedeidae

The sooty albatross if found in the southern Atlantic and Indian oceans, breeding sub-Antarctic islands including the Tristão da Cunha group, Prince Edward island, Marion island, the Crozet islands and on Amsterdam island.

These birds are 84-89 cm long and have a wingspan of 200-210 cm. Females tend to be smaller than males, weighing 1,8-2,5 kg while males weigh 2,4-2,9 kg.

These birds breed in inland and seaward cliffs of oceanic islands, generally among low vegetation. Outside the breeding season they are pelagic, foraging on the open ocean at latitudes between 30º S and 70º S.

The sooty albatross eats cephalopods, fishes, crustaceans and carrion. Unlike other albatrosses, they seldom follow fishing vessels to catch food.

They are monogamous, with pairs bonding for life. They breed in August-April, forming small colonies of up to 100 nests. The nest is a cylindrical pile of earth and vegetation, placed on a high ledge or buttress. There the female lays a single egg which is incubated by both parents for 65-75 days. Both parents guard and feed the young until fledging, which takes place 5 months after hatching. Each pair will only breed once every 2 years and the young start breeding at 3-4 years of age.

IUCN status - EN (Endangered)
Although this species has an extremely large range, they only breed in a few small islands. The current population size is estimated at 42.000 individuals, but this population has declined by 75% over the last 3 generations. The main threat to the sooty albatross is the bycatch of both adults and juveniles by longline vessels. Other threats include the predation of eggs and juveniles by introduced rats and cats, and deseases like avian cholera and erysipelas bacteria.

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