North Pacific albatross
Waved Albatrosses on Española Island, Galapagos.
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Aequorlitornithes
Clade: Ardeae
Clade: Aequornithes
Clade: Austrodyptornithes
Order: Procellariiformes
Family: Diomedeidae
Genus: Phoebastria
L. Reichenbach, 1853
  • Phoebastria californica
  • Phoebastria anglica
  • Phoebastria rexsularum
  • Phoebastria cf. albatrus
  • Phoebastria cf. immutabilis
  • Phoebastria cf. nigripes

Diomedea (sensu Coues, 1866)
Julietata Mathews & Hallstrom, 1943


The North Pacific albatrosses are large seabirds from the genus Phoebastria in the albatross family. They are the most tropical of the albatrosses, with two species ( the Laysan Albatross and Black-footed Albatross) nesting in North Western Hawaiian island chain, one on sub-tropical islands south of Japan (the Short-tailed Albatross), and one nesting on the equator (the Waved Albatross).


Their taxonomy is very confusing, as with all albatrosses. It is widely accepted nowadays, based on molecular evidence and the fossil record, that they are a distinct genus from Diomedea in which formerly most "white" albatrosses were placed but which is now restricted to the "Great" albatrosses.[1] They share certain identifying features. First, they have nasal passages that attach to the upper bill called naricorns. Although the nostrils on the Albatross are on the sides of the bill. The bills of Procellariiformes are also unique in that they are split into between 7 and 9 horny plates. Finally, they produce a stomach oil made up of wax esters and triglycerides that is stored in the proventriculus. This is used against predators as well as an energy rich food source for chicks and for the adults during their long flights.[2] They also have a salt gland that is situated above the nasal passage and helps desalinate their bodies, due to the high amount of ocean water that they imbibe. It excretes a high saline solution from their nose.[3]


Genus Phoebastria - North Pacific albatrosses

This genus and Diomedea had already diverged in the Middle Miocene (12-15 mya). Several fossil forms are known, which incidentally prove that Phoebastria was formerly distributed in the North Atlantic also. The current distribution is thus a relict. The oldest known species, P. californica, was at least the size of the Short-tailed Albatross and may have been an ancestor of this bird.

Fossil species

  • Phoebastria californica (Temblor Middle Miocene of Sharktooth Hill, USA)
  • Phoebastria anglica (Middle Pliocene - Early Pleistocene of NC Atlantic coasts)
  • Phoebastria cf. albatrus (San Diego Late Pliocene of San Diego County, USA) - formerly Diomedea howardae
  • Phoebastria rexsularum
  • Phoebastria cf. immutabilis (San Pedro Pleistocene of San Pedro, USA)
  • Phoebastria cf. nigripes (San Pedro Pleistocene of San Pedro, USA)
File:Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) -pair.jpg


The North Pacific Albatross ranges in size from 190 to 240 cm (75–94 in) and they all have short black tails.[4]


The feeding nabits of these albatrosses are similar to other albatrosses in that they eat fish, squid, crustacea, and carrion.[4]

When roosting, they choose isolated sites and lay one egg, with both parents incubating and raising the chick. They are monogamous species, and they don't start breeding until they are 5–15 years old.[4]


  1. ^ Nunn, G. B., et al. (1996)
  2. ^ Double, M. C. (2003)
  3. ^ Ehrlich, Paul R. (1988)
  4. ^ a b c Robertson, C. J. R. (2003)


  • Brands, Sheila (Aug 14 2008). "Systema Naturae 2000 / Classification - Genus Diomedea -". Project: The Taxonomicon. Retrieved 22 Feb 2009.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • Brooke, M. (2004). "Procellariidae". Albatrosses And Petrels Across The World. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-850125-0. 
  • Double, M. C. (2003). "Procellariiformes (Tubenosed Seabirds)". In Hutchins, Michael; Jackson, Jerome A.; Bock, Walter J. et al.. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. 8 Birds I Tinamous and Ratites to Hoatzins. Joseph E. Trumpey, Chief Scientific Illustrator (2 ed.). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group. pp. 107–111. ISBN 0 7876 5784 0. 
  • Ehrlich, Paul R.; Dobkin, David, S.; Wheye, Darryl (1988). The Birders Handbook (First ed.). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. pp. 29–31. ISBN 0 671 65989 8. 
  • Nunn, Gary B.; Cooper, John; Jouventin, Pierre; Robertson, Chris J. R. & Robertson Graham G. (1996): Evolutionary relationships among extant albatrosses (Procellariiformes: Diomedeidae) established from complete cytochrome-b gene sequences. Auk 113(4): 784-801. PDF fulltext
  • Robertson, C. J. R. (2003). "Albatrosses (Diomedeidae)". In Hutchins, Michael; Jackson, Jerome A.; Bock, Walter J. et al.. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. 8 Birds I Tinamous and Ratites to Hoatzins. Joseph E. Trumpey, Chief Scientific Illustrator (2 ed.). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group. pp. 113–116. ISBN 0 7876 5784 0. 
  • Tickell, W. L. N. (2000): Albatrosses. Pica Press, Sussex. ISBN 1-873403-94-1

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