Tuesday 21 May
Waved albatross (Phoebastria irrorata)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Waved albatross fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Waved albatross description
The waved albatross is unique in being the largest bird in the Galapagos Islands, and the only albatross species found entirely within the tropics (3). It has a white head, with a tinge of creamy-yellow on its crown and neck. The body plumage is mostly a chestnut-brown, with a whitish breast and underwing. Its bill is a dull yellow, and its feet are bluish (5). Juveniles differ slightly from adults by having a whiter head and a duller bill (2).
- Diomedea irrorata. Top
BBC Wildlife Finder:
Save the Albatross:
- BirdLife International:
IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1992) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Charles Darwin Foundation (April, 2007)
CMS (April, 2007)
Birdlife International (April, 2007)
Save the Albatross (April, 2007)
Birdlife International, Campaigns (April, 2007)
Birdlife International, News (April, 2007)
- Awkerman, J.A., Huyvaert, K.P., Mangel, J., Shigueto, J.A. and Anderson, D.J. (2006) Incidental and intentional catch threatens Galapagos waved albatross. Biological Conservation, 133: 483 - 489.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
Waved albatross biology
This large seabird feeds on fish and squid from the surface of the ocean, and also on crustaceans (2). It is thought to often feed during the night, when squid swim closer to the surface, making for an easier meal. The waved albatross has also been seen stealing food from other birds, such as boobies; a feeding strategy that is called kleptoparasitism (2).
Waved albatross mate for life; a relationship that starts with an elaborate courtship ritual. This routine is a precise sequence of moves, which includes rapidly circling and bowing their bills, clacking their beaks together and raising their bills skyward whilst letting out a “whoo-ooo” call (3). A pair of albatross will lay one egg in a depression on bare ground between April and June, where it is incubated for almost two months (2) (3). The newly hatched chicks have blackish-brown down, and after two weeks they are left in ‘nursery groups’ whilst the parents go fishing and return to feed them pre-digested oily fish liquid (3). About 167 days after hatching they are developed enough to fly (2), and around January the young will leave the colony and spend an astonishing six years at sea, feeding and scavenging. After this time, they will return to the island to find a mate and breed (3). These large birds can live for up to 30 years (6).Top
Waved albatross rangeTop
Waved albatross habitat
This is an open ocean species that comes to land to breed, at which time it can be found on cliffs, rocky shores and shrubland (3).Top
Waved albatross statusTop
Waved albatross threats
Like other albatross species, the greatest threat to the waved albatross is human fishing activities. Many are unintentionally drowned by longline fishing boats; a fishing method that involves a single line up to 130 kilometres long, with thousands of baited hooks attached to it, being pulled behind a boat. Waved albatrosses, scavenging in the ocean, try to eat the bait from the line as it is set behind the boat, but instead swallow the hooks and are dragged under and drowned (7). Currently, waved albatross are only affected by longlining when feeding off the coast of Peru, as industrial longline fishing is prohibited in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. However, there is pressure from the fishing industry to allow longlining within the reserve, which would have an extremely damaging impact on the population of waved albatross (8).
Waved albatross are also threatened by water pollution, such as oil slicks; the ingestion of contaminants, and occasional intentional harvesting for human consumption (3) (9). Additionally, because it breeds on only one, or possibly two, islands, this makes it very vulnerable to any chance events (1). As albatross are long-lived birds, they are exceptionally vulnerable to the effects of any threats, as they can not breed fast enough to replace the numbers being killed (6).Top
Waved albatross conservation
Española is part of the Galápagos National Park and Marine Reserve, and World Heritage Site, which means that this breeding site of the waved albatross is well protected. There are no introduced species on the island, and tourism is well regulated. The other potential breeding site, the Isla de la Plata, is part of Machalilla National Park but does not have the same level of protection as Española, and therefore the albatross could benefit from increased protection of this island (5).
A number of organisations are working together to encourage and train fisherman to use methods that reduce the threat of longlines to albatross. These methods include using devices to scare birds away from the longlines, releasing the line from the boat underwater out of reach of the birds, and using weights so the lines sink more quickly (6). It is hoped that longlining remains prohibited within the Galapagos Marine Reserve.Top
Find out more
For more information on the waved albatross, visit:
For further information on the conservation of albatross species worldwide, and how to get involved. see:
For more information on this and other bird species please 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:
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
This species is featured in:
This species is endangered. Visit our endangered species page to learn more.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Creative commons material
Any other use