Indian yellow-nosed albatross (Thalassarche carteri)

GenusThalassarche (1)
SizeLength: 76 cm (2)
Wingspan: 2 m (3)
Weight2.55 kg (3)

The Indian yellow-nosed albatross is classified as Endangered (EN A4bde) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and as ‘rare or likely to become extinct’ on the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (4).

Part of the mollymawk family, the Indian yellow-nosed albatross is one of the smallest albatross species, compensating for its relatively diminutive proportions with excellent in-flight agility. A black and white bird, it has just one blaze of colour - a yellow stripe running down the top of the bill, blending into red at the tip – to which it owes its name. The back, upperwings and tail are dark grey, fading to very pale grey across the head and neck, and white on the underwings and rump. The underwings are tipped with black and have a narrow margin of black at the leading edge (2). The legs are pale bluish pink (3). The sexes are alike, but juveniles have a white head and black bill (2).

The Indian yellow-nosed albatross breeds on Prince Edward Island, the Crozet Islands, the Kerguelen Islands, Amsterdam Island and the St Paul Islands in the Southern Indian Ocean. Outside the breeding season, the Indian yellow-nosed albatross disperses throughout the Indian Ocean and can be found off the south-western coast of Australia, east to the Tasman Sea and off northeastern New Zealand (2).

Spending the non-breeding season out at sea, the Indian yellow-nosed albatross comes to land only during the breeding season, preferring slopes and cliffs in bare, rocky regions, with little vegetation (2).

Adult Indian yellow-nosed albatrosses return to the breeding colonies in late August, where they meet their partner from at least two previous breeding seasons. Forming loose groups on slopes and cliffs, the each pair lays just one large, white egg which is incubated by both the male and the female. The chick is fed and cared for until late March to mid April, when it fledges and begins to feed itself. It will not breed until it is eight or nine years old (3).

Often following fishing vessels, the Indian yellow-nosed albatross feeds on fish, crustaceans and cephalopods. It feeds by snatching prey from the surface and by diving into the water. Although faring poorly when in competition for fish with larger sea birds, the Indian yellow-nosed albatross makes up for this with its agile flying technique, which enables it to catch scraps thrown from trawlers before they hit the water (2). Whilst usually silent at sea, this bird will give occasional croaks when competing for food (3).

As with many seabird species, longline fishing activities pose the major threat to the Indian yellow-nosed albatross. Longlining is mainly used to catch tuna and swordfish by releasing a line of baited hooks that sink to the appropriate depth for these fish. Many seabirds dive for the bait before it has sunk, becoming caught on the hooks and drowning as the line reaches its final depth (2).

The largest population, of Indian yellow-nosed albatrosses, found on Amsterdam Island, has suffered massive losses in the last 25 years as a result of two bacterial diseases (Avian cholera and Erysipelothrix rhusiopathidae).

Prince Edward Island is a Special Nature Reserve, where all fauna is protected. Population monitoring and foraging studies have been carried out on Amsterdam Island, and vaccines against the bacterial diseases have been tested, but these cannot be carried out on a large scale (2). A Threat Abatement Plan has been prepared which proposes to reduce by-catch in all fisheries within the species’ range (5).

For further information on the Indian yellow-nosed albatross, see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2005)
  2. BirdLife International (January, 2005)
  3. Institute of African Ornithology (January, 2005)
  4. Wildlife Conservation Notice of Western Australia (January, 2005)
  5. Australian Department of Environment and Heritage – Recovery Plan (January, 2005)