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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

At three to four years old, the sooty albatross performs an elegant courtship display at a nest site. The pair bond formed following these displays may last for life, although the pairs will not begin to breed until they are 9 to 16 years. Laying occurs between September and December, with a single egg laid in a nest made from a mound of mud and plant matter. The egg is incubated by both parents for 65 – 75 days. Parental care continues after hatching, and the chick is fed and guarded for the next five months, at which time it leaves the nest and becomes independent (2). The sooty albatross eats cephalopods, fish, crustaceans and carrion, but unlike many other albatross species, it seldom follows fishing vessels to catch food (4) (5).
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Description

Named after the sooty brown colour of its feathers, this albatross is medium-sized with a diamond-shaped tail. The sides of the head are slightly darker brown than the rest of the body (4) and the legs and feet are pale grey (2). A white crescent surrounds the eye, and the bill is black with a yellow-orange groove in the lower jaw (4).
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Distribution

Range Description

Phoebetria fusca breeds on islands in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The total annual breeding population is estimated at 13,200 - 14,500 pairs (Ryan et al. 2003), consisting of c.5,000 pairs on Gough Island (Cuthbert and Sommer 2004a), 3,157 pairs in the Tristan da Cunha group (to UK) (ACAP 2012), c. 1,450 pairs on Prince Edward and c. 1,700 pairs on Marion Island (South Africa) (ACAP 2012), 2,080-2,200 pairs on the Crozet Islands (Delord et al. 2008), and 470 pairs on Amsterdam Island (French Southern Territories) (Delord et al. 2008). The pelagic distribution is mainly between 30S and 60S in the southern Indian and Atlantic Oceans, with a southern limit of c. 65S near Antarctica and a northern limit of c. 20S. Adults move north in winter from sub-Antarctic to subtropical seas, whereas immature birds tend to remain in subtropical seas year round. The species infrequently disperses eastward to the Tasman Sea and New Zealand waters (ACAP 2009). On Possession Island (Crozet), the population declined by 58% between 1980 and 1995 (Weimerskirch and Jouventin 1998) and continues to decline, although at a slower rate. This equates to an 82% decline between 1980 and 2006 (Delord et al. 2008). On Marion Island, the population declined by 25% from 1990-19988. On Gough Island (c.36% global population), the population appears to have decreased by over 50% from 1972-2000 ( Cuthbert and Sommer 2004a), although recent counts of breeding birds on Gough in 2000, 2003 and 2005 indicate no change in breeding numbers. Limited counts have been made on Tristan and Inaccessible, and indicate a population of c.3,157 (ACAP 2012). Overall, these declines equate to 60% over three generations (90 years), with a trend start date of 1960.

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Range

S Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean north to about 30°S.
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Range

Spending most of the year at sea in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the sooty albatross nests on many of the islands in these oceans, including Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha Islands, Prince Edward and Marion Islands, St. Paul Island, Amsterdam Island and the Crozet and Kerguelen archipelagos (4) (5).
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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Description

Length: 81-87 cm; wingspan: 204 cm. Colour: Adult: uniformly dark sooty brown with a slightly darker head; bill black with a narrow yellow sulcus on lower mandible, not easily visible; legs and feet pale grey to pinkish; immature similar to adult but no yellow sulcus. Habitat: Open ocean. <388><391><393>
  • Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban & K. Newman (1982). The Birds of Africa, Volume I. Academic Press, London.
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Description

Length: 81-87 cm; wingspan: 204 cm. Colour: Adult: uniformly dark sooty brown with a slightly darker head; bill black with a narrow yellow sulcus on lower mandible, not easily visible; legs and feet pale grey to pinkish; immature similar to adult but no yellow sulcus. Habitat: Open ocean. <388><391><393>
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour It breeds in loose colonies of up to 50-60 nests (Marchant and Higgins 1990). The breeding season extends through summer, eggs are laid in October and November, hatch in early to mid-December and chicks fledge in May (ACAP 2009). Successful pairs seldom breed in the following summer (Ryan 2007). A single egg is laid, with no replacement laying. Adults make a combination of long commuting flights early in the incubation period, looping searching flights later in incubation and linear searching during chick brooding (ACAP 2009). Habitat Breeding It breeds on cliffs or steep slopes where it can land and take off right next to the nest (Marchant and Higgins 1990). Diet Squid, fish, crustaceans and carrion all feature prominently in the diet, although proportions of each vary between years and locations (ACAP 2009).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Marine
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Depth range based on 94 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 93 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): -0.938 - 16.532
  Nitrate (umol/L): 2.487 - 26.905
  Salinity (PPS): 33.739 - 35.307
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.761 - 7.839
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.336 - 1.904
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.528 - 74.475

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): -0.938 - 16.532

Nitrate (umol/L): 2.487 - 26.905

Salinity (PPS): 33.739 - 35.307

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.761 - 7.839

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.336 - 1.904

Silicate (umol/l): 1.528 - 74.475
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.
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Depth range based on 94 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 93 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): -0.938 - 16.532
  Nitrate (umol/L): 2.487 - 26.905
  Salinity (PPS): 33.739 - 35.307
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.761 - 7.839
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.336 - 1.904
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.528 - 74.475

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): -0.938 - 16.532

Nitrate (umol/L): 2.487 - 26.905

Salinity (PPS): 33.739 - 35.307

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.761 - 7.839

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.336 - 1.904

Silicate (umol/l): 1.528 - 74.475
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Inhabits sub-Antarctic and subtropical marine waters. Nests amongst vegetation on inland and seaward cliffs of oceanic islands (2) (5).
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Breeding Category

Vagrant
  • Woehler E.J. (compiler) 2006. Species list prepared for SCAR/IUCN/BirdLife International Workshop on Antarctic Regional Seabird Populations, March 2005, Cambridge, UK.
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Breeding Category

Vagrant
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
A4bd

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Taylor, J. & Butchart, S.

Contributor/s
Cooper, J., Crawford, R., Croxall, J., Cuthbert, R., Hilton, G., Misiak, W., Ryan, P.G. & Weimerskirsch, H.

Justification
This species qualifies as Endangered owing to a very rapid decline over three generations (90 years), probably due to interactions with fisheries. Since 1980, three sites (Crozet, Marion and Gough) have witnessed severe declines, although the population at Prince Edward may have increased between 2002-2009. However, high variability in population counts between years necessitates caution and further data are required before a change in status should be considered.


History
  • Endangered (EN)
  • Endangered (EN)
  • Endangered (EN)
  • Endangered (EN)
  • Endangered (EN)
  • Endangered (EN)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)