Ian’s Bird of the Week – Light-mantled Albatross

Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) by Ian 1

Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) by Ian 1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Light-mantled Albatross ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 12/1/11

We arrived in Hobart today at the end of successful visit to the Sub-antarctic Islands between New Zealand and Australia. We had a lot of very rough weather in the Southern Ocean but the weather was kinder to us at the various destinations and we managed make all the planned landings (Auckland Islands, Campbell and Macquarie Islands) and view the Snares from the zodiacs (where actual landings are not permitted). I managed to photograph most of the species on my target list and the highlight for most of us was Macquarie Island and its four nesting species of penguin.

As the last Bird of the Week was the Yellow-eyed Penguin, I’ve chosen an albatross, the Light-mantled (Sooty) Albatross, for this week and will return to penguins later. This was the Albatross that I most wanted to see and also very popular with everyone else. My interest in it had been aroused when I’d heard it likened to a Siamese cat, a seal point in particular. The comparison is apt given the chocolate brown head and latte-coloured body, and the silky texture of the plumage is quite feline in appearance. The white partial eye-ring is striking and sets off the dark head colour very well.
Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) by Ian 2

Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) by Ian 2

We saw Light-mantled Albatrosses quite frequently until we got close to Tasmania, encountering them first and best on Enderby Island, one of the Auckland Islands, as in the first photo but also at sea and at Macquarie Island as in the second photo. Macquarie Island is administratively part of the State of Tasmania even though it is a long way away and, as one of the Kiwis on board pointed out, geographically part of New Zealand. The Albatrosses were nesting on Enderby Island and it was here that we saw pairs indulging in their beautiful courtship flights, quite an aerial ballet, as in the third photo.
Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) by Ian 3

Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) by Ian 3

At this point, I though that the comparison with Siamese Cats broke down. I used to have a pair and. when the female was on heat, her behaviour was anything but elegant; demented would have been more like it.
Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) by Ian 4

Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) by Ian 4

Some pairs were already nesting and incubating eggs. They chose small platforms on quite rocky cliffs and often nested in close proximity to each other, as in the fourth photo. Light-mantled are quite small by albatross standards, measuring about 84cm/33in in length with a wingspan of 215cm/85in. Their range is circumpolar in the colder waters of the Southern Ocean and are seen only rarely in the waters of mainland Australia and Tasmania proper.
Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) by Ian 5

Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) by Ian 5

On close inspection of the head of a Light-mantled, as in the last photo, the eyes are bluish and, as a final touch, the pale stripe on the bill is also blue. Yes, I know, same colour scheme as a Siamese Cat!
During the rougher parts of the voyage I had the opportunity to work on some of the photos and I have added the following species to the website: Snares, Fiordland and Yellow-eyed Penguins:
Best wishes

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au

Lee’s Addition:

The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them. (Proverbs 20:12 KJV)

What an absolutely neat looking bird. I love that eye ring. Makes the eyes very expressive. Looks like they built nests of mud.

It will be interesting to see what other neat birds that Ian has found on this trip. Not so sure I would have enjoyed those rough seas.

The Albatross are found in the Diomedeidae Family of the Procellariiformes Order. That order includes Petrel, Shearwater, Storm Petrel and Diving Petrel families.

Check out:

Ian’s Albatross Photos

Bird of the Week Newsletters


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