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Black-footed Albatross Phoebastria nigripes (Diomedea nigripes)


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Black-footed Albatross
credit: USFWS

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Family: Diomedeidae, Albatrosses view all from this family

Description ADULT Has mainly dark brown plumage, but tail is noticeably darker than back and most birds show variable amounts of white at base of bill and on undertail coverts. Typically, the extent of white in both these areas increases with age and some birds appear very pale-headed. Bill is dark pink in all birds. JUVENILE Similar to adult, but usually the pale elements of adult's plumage are absent.

Dimensions Length: 28-36" (71-91 cm); Wngspn: 6' 6"-7" (1.9-2.1 m)

Habitat Breeds on remote islands off Japan and Hawaii. Occurs year-round off North American Pacific coasts as a feeding visitor; most widespread and numerous outside the breeding season, from fall to spring.

Observation Tips Easiest to see on pelagic trips.

Range California, Alaska, Western Canada, Northwest

Voice Mostly silent.

Similar Species Laysan Albatross P. immutabilis (W 78-80 in) has blackish brown upper wings, back, and tail. Plumage is otherwise mainly white, but, seen from below, note the dark primaries and dark margins to the wings; wing coverts are also variably dark. At close range, note the grayish cheeks and dark "eyebrow." Bill is pink with a dark tip in all birds. Breeds on Kauai and remote islands off Hawaii. Occurs off Pacific North American coasts as a wandering, feeding visitor. Easiest to see on pelagic trips.

Discussion A huge seabird, unmistakably an albatross on account of its size, proportionately very long wings, large bill, and flight pattern. The mainly all-dark plumage separates it from Laysan Albatross, which has a white head, neck, and underparts, and is the only other of its kind to occur regularly off Pacific coasts. Flies in typical albatross fashion: the wings are held stiff and outstretched and seldom flapped, as the bird glides and banks effortlessly. Sexes are not separable in the field, but aging differences are discernible with care.