Fr: Albatros des Antipodes
Ang: Antipodean Albatross
All: Antipoden-Wanderalbatros


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HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 1 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334105 

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Report prepared for Department of Conservation by Graeme Elliott and Kath Walker - November 2014
Antipodean wandering albatross – population study

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New Zealand bird status between 2008 and 2012

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Antipodean Albatross
Diomedea antipodensis

Procellariiformes Order – Diomedeidae Family

The Antipodean Albatross is a large albatross that breeds on the Auckland and Antipodes Islands. It has variable plumage colour depending on sex, age and race, from black-and-white to chocolate-brown. It is very similar to the Wandering Albatross (D. exulans) of which it was formerly a subspecies. However, it is smaller and slighter than D. exulans.
The Antipodean Albatross is a member of the genus Diomedea that includes the six largest albatrosses.
It was elevated to species level on basis of ecological differences referring only to timing of breeding, and morphological features, especially the dark brown plumage of the female and the adult male smaller overall, with shorter bill and darker tail.

Length: 110-117 cm
Wingspan: 280-330 cm
Weight: M: 7240 g – F: 5790 g
Race “gibsoni”: M: 5500-8600 g – F: 4600-7300 g    

The Antipodean Albatross adult male of nominate race has mostly white body with variable, but usually dense, dark brown vermiculations. The upperwing is almost plain dark brown with whitish shafts on outer primaries. The black uppertail is tipped white.
The underwing is white with narrow trailing edge.
The head is white, including forehead, chin and throat. The crown is often dark brown. There is a variable amount of brownish blotching on the side of the rear part of head and neck.
The bill is pale pink, with the hooked tip of the upper mandible tinged yellowish to horn. The eyes are dark brown. Legs and webbed feet are greyish to pink.

The female is much darker overall, although face, chin and throat are white like in male. She has chocolate-brown neck and body. The feathers show narrow pale margin at tip and broad whitish bases, involving whitish waving lines.  
The upperwing is darker brown, whereas the underwing is like in male. Neck and upper breast are brown. The belly is whitish with dark brown vermiculations on sides and flanks.

The juvenile is all chocolate-brown, except the white face, chin, throat and underwing. It is very similar to the juvenile D. exulans.

The Antipodean Albatross has two recognized subspecies.
D.a. antipodensis (described and displayed) is named Antipodean Albatross. It breeds in Antipodes Islands and some pairs are on Campbell Island, and also Pitt Island and Chatham Islands, E and S of New Zealand. It forages in S Pacific E of New Zealand and E as far as Chilean waters.

D.a. gibsoni is named Gibson’s Albatross. It breeds in Auckland Islands (Disappointment I, Auckland I and Adam I) S of New Zealand. It usually forages W of New Zealand over the Tasman Sea and S of Australia.
This race has also brown vermiculations, but it appears whiter than nominate, with white extending partially on base of upperwing. The tail is whiter. It is generally more similar to D. exulans.

The Antipodean Albatross is a pelagic seabird that comes to land only for breeding on windswept subantarctic islands. The nest is often built among dense vegetation such as tussock grass and shrubs. It usually avoids areas with tall vegetation, and exposed tops of hills or ridges.
It forages over the shelf edge and deep water where it can find abundant food.

The Antipodean Albatross gives various calls during the displays including screams, roars and bill clapping. At sea, the birds competing for food perform bill clapping too, and produce some aggressive guttural calls.

Like most Diomedeidae species, the Antipodean Albatross feeds mainly on cephalopods, fish and crustaceans. The main food item is squid. It also takes discards from boats. It feeds mainly on dead squid floating at the surface, and both squid and fish diet is mostly scavenged. It takes them from the surface or by shallow plunge-dives. It is attracted by boats from which it can get offal.

The Antipodean Albatross performs elaborate courtship over several successive breeding seasons until mating finally occurs. These displays initially involve typical singing and dances. Both birds engage in bowing, bill snapping, mutual preening, touching bills and head-shaking. These displays strengthen the pair-bond, helping to form enduring pairs that usually last until one of the mates dies.  

The Antipodean Albatross moves over SW Pacific Ocean, Southern Ocean and Tasman Sea after breeding. The non-breeding juvenile males often move from Antipodes Islands E to Chilean waters.
The race “gibsoni” from Auckland Islands migrate W to SE Indian Ocean, males and females at the same time.
They are able to cover up to 1700 kilometres in just 36 hours.

Like all the great albatrosses, the Antipodean Albatross performs low-energy flying, taking advantage of small updrafts created by wind and waves. It rarely performs flapping flight. It can glide over long distances while searching for food.

The Antipodean Albatross usually breeds biennially if successful. The laying occurs around January on Antipodes Islands and around February on Chatham Islands.
The race “gibsoni” breeds mostly in late December on the Auckland Islands.
The nest is a low truncated cone made with soil, twigs and roots, and the shallow depression at top is sometimes lined with grass. It is often placed in open or in scattered tussock grass or shrubs, and from coastline to inland areas such as slopes or plateau.    

The female lays a single white egg, and both adults incubate during 75-85 days, with stints of up to 3 weeks. At hatching, the chick has white down overall. The fledging period lasts up to 9 months, and rearing the chick takes about a year. Both parents make foraging trips out to sea and return to the nest for feeding the chick.
While the young bird practices flying, it makes squeaky begging calls and squeals. It will breed at 8-12 years old. They are long-lived birds.

The Antipodean Albatross is affected by introduced predators such as pigs, cats, rats and mice on some breeding islands. However, the main threat is at sea where the birds take bait from hooks. Numerous birds are killed by long-line fisheries, involving important declines over several following years. The global warming also changes the ocean conditions and reduces prey abundance.
In 2009, the global population was estimated to number 44,500 mature individuals. There were 4,565 breeding pairs on Antipodes Islands in 2007/2009, and 3,277 pairs in the Auckland group between 2006 and 2009.
The Antipodean Albatross has reduced breeding range on some subantarctic islands. It is currently classified as Vulnerable, but following declines, it could be reclassified as Endangered or even Critically Endangered.

First moult, after fledging
First moult, after fledging