Southern royal albatross

Southern royal albatross

Southern royal albatross

2 languages
Diomedea epomophora
9000 g
107-122 cm
305-351 cm

The southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora ) is a large seabird from the albatross family. At an average wingspan of above 3 m (9.8 ft), it is one of the two largest species of albatross, together with the wandering albatross. Recent studies indicate that the southern royal albatross may, on average, be somewhat larger than the wandering albatross in mass and have a similar wingspan, although other sources indicate roughly similar size for the two species and the wandering species may have a larger average (and maximum) wingspan in some colonies.

Animal name origin

Diomedea refers to Diomedes, a figure from Greek mythology whose companions turned to birds.






















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The southern royal albatross has a length of 112 to 123 cm (44–48 in) and a mean weight of 8.5 kg (19 lb). At Campbell Island, 11 males were found to have a mean mass of 10.3 kg (23 lb) and 7 females were found to have a mean mass of 7.7 kg (17 lb), thus may be heavier on average than most colonies of wandering albatross. Males are about 2 to 3 kg (4.4 to 6.6 lb) heavier than females. Average wingspan has been reported from 2.9 to 3.28 m (9.5 to 10.8 ft), with an upper limit of about 3.51 m (11.5 ft). The wandering albatross can exceed this species in maximum size and averages slightly larger in linear dimensions if not bulk, but the two species are close enough in dimensions that size cannot be used to distinguish between them. The juvenile has a white head, neck, upper mantle, rump, and underparts. There are black speckles on the mantle, and dark brown or black wings with white flecks on coverts. The tail is white except for the black tip as is the under-wing. Young birds soon lose the black on their tail and backs. White appears on the upperwing gradually, as speckles starting from the leading edge. All ages have a pink bill with black on the cutting edge on the upper mandible, and the legs are flesh-coloured. Young birds with all-dark upperwings can be hard to differentiate from the northern royal albatross. There are clear but subtle differences from the wandering albatross, with the southern royal having a clean black and white appearance, lacking the peach neck spot often found on the wandering albatross. Most wandering albatrosses have dark feathers in the tail and crown and the white in this species expands from the middle of the wing, in larger blotches. The bill color is also slightly paler, as well as the dark cutting edge along the middle. The average life span is 58 years.



Most of the royal albatross population is found between 30° S and 45° S. The majority of the world's population of southern royal albatrosses nest on the rat-free subantarctic Campbell Island, around 8,200 to 8,600 pairs. There are smaller colonies on Adams Island and Auckland Island in the Auckland Islands, 20 pairs combined, and 69 pairs on Enderby Island and some sanfordi × epomophora hybrids at the northern royal albatross colony on the Otago Peninsula in New Zealand. They range along the southern oceans concentrating on the west and east coast of southern South America, and also in the waters surrounding New Zealand.

Southern royal albatross habitat map

Climate zones

Southern royal albatross habitat map
Southern royal albatross
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Habits and Lifestyle

They attract their mates using methods such as bill-snapping, clapping and gulping. Others ways also include sky-calling with outstretched wings, and neck and head stretched upwards.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

The southern royal albatross eats squid and fish, with smaller amounts of carrion, crustaceans, and salps.Its foraging activities normally take place within a 1250 km radius of the breeding site. Although they travel vast distances, royal albatrosses in general tend to forage in somewhat shallower waters and closer to continental shelves than wandering albatrosses.

Mating Habits


They prefer to nest on tussock grassland, plateaus, or ridges, and will lay one egg biennially. This will normally take place in November or December. Both parents will incubate the egg, and rear the young. After they are born it takes about 240 days for a baby to grow its wings fully and fly by itself.There is very low mortality rates of the laid eggs once the parents settle in. When feeding the young they will range south to the Campbell Plateau and north to the Chatham Rise.



The IUCN classifies this bird as vulnerable, with an occurrence range of 63,400,000 km2 (24,500,000 sq mi) and a breeding range of 750 km2 (290 sq mi), with a total estimated population of between 28,000 and 29,500 (1997). As a top-tier organism in its natural habitat, it has very few predators but major fishing industries are a huge problem for all albatross species among other seabirds.

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The population is recovering from its severe downward spiral in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By the 1880s, this albatross was extirpated from Auckland Island and Enderby Island. Pigs and cats are still a problem, as they take chicks and eggs, on Auckland Island. Longline fishing is a major problem and a possible emerging threat is Dracophyllum, a scrub that is taking away from their nesting range.

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1. Southern royal albatross Wikipedia article -
2. Southern royal albatross on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

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