- ORDER: Procellariiformes
- FAMILY: Diomedeidae
There are few things as wondrous as watching an albatross glide and wheel over the open ocean with barely a wingbeat. Feathered mostly in brown, with a milky wash over the face, the Black-footed uses its powerful sense of smell to find concentrations of squid, which they seize with their sharp-edged bills. Like many albatross species, they are famous for their long lives, lifelong pair bonds, and elaborate courtship dances. They, along with many seabirds, face a range of ocean-health threats including climate change and fishing bycatch.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Only three albatross species regularly occur in the Northern Hemisphere, and the Black-footed is the species most likely to be seen off the West Coast of North America. You’re not likely to see them from shore, so your best bet is to join a pelagic birding trip that will take you offshore from places like Half Moon Bay, California. In a pinch, joining a whale-watching trip may work to turn up a Black-footed Albatross as well, especially July to October.
- Albatros Patinegro (Spanish)
- Albatros à pieds noirs (French)
- Cool Facts
- Albatrosses are famous for their courtship “dances,” and the Black-footed Albatross is no exception. Courting pairs face each other and bow, touch their bills together, swing their heads back and forth, open their wings wide, and point their bills at the sky while lifting their feet. The whole time they make outlandish sounds like mooing, braying, whinnying, or clattering their bills.
- The Black-footed Albatross has a keen sense of smell, which it uses to locate food across vast expanses of ocean.
- “Water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink,” is a famous line from Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It highlights one difficulty of living at sea: the water contains too much salt for most animals to drink. Albatrosses and other seabirds have solved this problem; special glands above the eyes allow them to excrete excess salt through their special "tubenose” bill, retaining the water.
- Black-footed Albatrosses nest mainly on exposed sandy islands in the tropical Pacific. To stay cool under the hot sun, they have a network of blood vessels in the head, as well as a habit of raising a foot off the ground so circulating blood can cool off.
- Albatrosses are some of the longest-lived of all animals. The oldest recorded Black-footed Albatross was a male, and at least 60 years, 11 months old, when it was observed during banding operations.