Common Name: Black-footed
Scientific Name: Phoebastria nigripes
Laysan Albatross and Black-footed
Albatross are two of the 3 species of albatross that
occur in Alaskan waters. Albatrosses are
by far the largest seabirds found in Alaska,
but are small compared to many other albatrosses. Laysan,
Black-footed, and Short-tailed Albatross have a wingspan of
almost two meters, which is half that of the largest albatrosses.
Albatrosses do not nest in Alaska but they migrate here each
year after having bred in such far away places as the Northwestern
Hawaiian Islands and Torishima Island in Japan.
these remote uninhabited islands, albatrosses nest in huge,
dense colonies. Nearly all of the 400,000 breeding pairs of
Laysan Albatross and 50,000 pairs of Black-footed
Albatross nest in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The Latin family name for albatrosses is Diomedeidae, which
comes from the name of the Greek hero of the Trojan War, Diomedes.
The Greek gods exiled Diomedes to an isolated island and turned
all of his companions into large, white birds resembling swans
Comments: Single egg is laid mid-November to early
December on Midway Island. Incubation, in long turns by both
sexes, lasts 63-68 days. Young are tended by both sexes. Nestling
stage lasts about 140 days. May not breed until 5+ years old.
Life-long pair bond. Does not renest if egg is lost.
Habitat(s): Near shore, Pelagic
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Sand/dune
Habitat Comments: Pelagic. Frequently follows ships.
Nests in sand on oceanic islands. Usually nests in same spot
in successive years.
or Region Found
are truly at home soaring over the open ocean. Since the first
humans encountered albatrosses at sea, they have marveled
at their mastery of the ocean despite the harshest North Pacific
travel great distances in search of food by riding currents
of air that flow just above the surface of the water. With
their long, narrow, pointed wings stiffly outstretched they
soar effortlessly up and over the peaks of the highest waves
only to plunge gracefully into the next valley, all with only
the twist of the tail or tilt of the head, and only the occasional
wingbeat. When albatross return to their
breeding colonies, they are not quite as graceful. They approach
the island at high speed, pulling up only at the last moment,
often times skidding to a stop on their chests. These "crash"
landings combined with their strange and elaborate courtship
dances, and their lack of fear of people has resulted in them
being called "gooney birds" and aho-dori or "fool birds" in
Japanese. Anyone who has closely observed these majestic birds
on land or watched them at sea, knows how unfair these names
most of the breeding sites of North Pacific albatrosses
have been preserved and it is illegal to intentially kill
albatross. However many Laysan and Black-footed albatross
are killed every year as a result of human activities.
Long-line fishing is one of the causes, but this problem may
be small compared to others. When albatross see small pieces
of plastic floating on the surface of the water they will
often mistake them for food and eat them. This plastic builds
up inside the bird and can eventually prevent the bird from
feeding properly. Breeding colonies are often covered in plastic
debris and piles of plastic mark where birds have died and
their bodies have decomposed. There is also concern for the
levels of some toxic pollutants in the bodies of albatrosses.