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Tuatara: Volume 21, Issues 1 and 2 (New Zealand Albatrosses and Petrels: an Identification Guide)

10. Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross — (Phoebetria palpebrata) — Plate 6

10. Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross
(Phoebetria palpebrata)
Plate 6

Field Characters: 203/82. A graceful, medium-sized, brown albatross with long, slender wings and conspicuously pointed tail. (Fig. 8). The chocolate-brown head and upperwings contrast with the pale buff mantle and back. The semi-circle of white feathering behind the eye, and white shafts to both the primaries and tail feathers are readily discernible at close range. Juveniles are similar to adults, except for less white featherings behind the eye.

In adults the bill is black with a light blue sulcus (soft, fleshy line between plates on lower mandible) which is visible at close range. In juveniles, however, the sulcus is either black or white. Feet light fleshy grey in adults; dark brown in juveniles.

Flight consists of graceful soaring and gliding, interspersed with powerful wingbeats, especially during calm weather. Follows ships closely for short periods.

Circumpolar in distribution, this species breeds locally on Antipodes, Auckland, Campbell and Macquarie Islands. Widely distributed in southern New Zealand waters.

Note: Another closely related species in the South Indian and Atlantic Oceans, the Sooty Albatross (Phoebetria fusca), differs from the above species by its uniformly dark brown plumage and yellow (or orange) sulcus. This bird has not as yet been reported from New Zealand seas).