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Facts About the Black-footed Albatross

Rutuja Ghanekar
The Black-footed Albatross is a seabird, with major colonies inhabiting the northwestern Hawaiian islands. Here are some important facts associated with this bird.
The most prominent behavior of the Black-footed Albatross is displayed in the form of vocalization ranging from whistles, groans, quacks, shrieks, and squeals.
Belonging to genus Phoebastria, the Black-footed Albatross is one of the two species (from a total of 3) of albatrosses living in Alaskan waters. Although they are smaller than other albatrosses, they are considered the largest seabirds inhabiting Alaska. Like other albatross species, the Black-footed Albatross has a long wing span and a smooth glide.

Scientific Classification of Black-footed Albatross

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Procellariiformes
Family: Diomedeidae
Genus: Phoebastria
Species: P. nigripes

Black-footed Albatross Facts

Range and Habitat

» The former range of the Black-footed Albatross included the volcanic islands of Iwo Jima, northern Bonin Islands (Muko-jima), Marcus Island, Johnston Atoll, Wake Island, Agrihan, and Taongi Atoll.
» When it comes to breeding and feeding, the range of the Black-footed Albatross overlaps to a great extent with that of the other two species of northern albatross. Hence, it becomes a tad difficult to locate the exact geographical range of this species.
» Black-footed Albatrosses are mainly found in the Pacific Ocean, with colonies ranging from northeast Japan to the west coast of the US.
» The range also extends from the sub-Arctic waters in the southward direction and beyond the Hawaiian Islands. In the northern Hawaiian Islands, breeding colonies are found from Kure Atoll to Kaʻula Island.
» At sea, the range stretches from the Gulf of Alaska in the north to Baja California in the south. In the east, they are found as far as the coast of China, and east of the North American coast.
» The IUCN states that the Black-footed Albatross is native to the following countries-United States, United States Minor Outlying Islands, Canada, Russia, Taiwan, China, Guam, Japan, Korea, Marshall Islands, and Mexico.
» They are usually found at sea-in pelagic waters. Away from the sea, they usually prefer coastlines with minimum vegetation.

Physical Description

» Black-footed albatrosses have a white ring near the base of their bill. The amount of whiteness increase as they get older. They have uniformly black-brown plumage, with a black beak and feet.
» Black-footed Albatrosses measure 27-29 inches, with males having an average weight of 7.5 pounds, and females having an average weight of 6.6 pounds. They have a large wingspan, measuring 6.2-7.2 feet.


» Black-footed Albatrosses prefer to feed on fish, eggs of fish (predominantly of flying fish), squids, and small crustaceans. They are known to visit the west coast of US, following fishing boats to feed on the leftovers.
» Hunting for prey takes place mainly at night when this bird is highly active, sometimes feeding on even floating offal and carrion.


» Just like its family, the Black-footed Albatross forms pairs that mate for life. Usually, mates are the first ones to arrive at their mating site, which is often the same place they have used for mating the year before.
» Once the nest is reclaimed and the female arrives (generally after 3 weeks), mating takes place. The breeding pair then rebuilds the nest for the egg.
» A single egg is laid, which is incubated by both birds in turns. The incubation period generally lasts for 2 months. Once the egg hatches, the pair broods the chick, again, in turns, with the other undertaking the task of foraging.
» Chicks usually leave the nests permanently only after 6 months, though they start wandering after about 2-3 months.
The IUCN estimates that by 2065 the population of the Black-footed Albatross will face a rapid decline; possibly beyond control, assuming the current mitigation measures that have been enforced are insufficient.