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Thread: juvenile Grey-headed Albatross

  1. #1

    juvenile Grey-headed Albatross

    Hi all,

    When this bird (attached) approached the boat yesterday, I immediately shouted "possible Grey-headed Albatross". The bird looked overall very different from BBAL or CAAL.
    Name:  GHALWol09222012RWS-6960small.jpg
Views: 400
Size:  272.4 KB

    Following characters speak for GHAL:
    - grey head with whiter cheek
    - contrasting white lower eye-lid
    - and, importantly, the facial expression that is very dissimilar to that of a BBAL/CAAL

    Not so sure about colour and shape of bill.

    Nevertheless I think that this is a genuine GHAL.


    Last edited by nhaass; 24-09-2012 at 02:00 AM.

  2. #2
    Storm-Petrel Tobias Hayashi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Canberra, Australia
    Interesting bird. When you say the bird looked overall very different to BBA/CA, what do you mean was different? Certainly something to be said for jizz. Bill colour and shape are interesting though, as you say.

  3. #3
    Hi Tobias,

    The combination of jizz and grey head made me shout initially.

    Jizz: the bird looked 'stouter' than BBAL - i.e. shorter- and thicker-necked (bull-necked), perhaps also shorter-winged.

    Grey head: Yes, I have seen a lot of grey-headed BBALs, which are commonly misidentified as GHAL (see below the link to my other post of a grey-headed BBAL earlier this year), but the greyness of this past Saturday's bird appeared different. Somewhat more velvety? Not sure how to put that into words.

    Facial expression: Once I got a closer look at the bird, the facial expression was striking: The dark around the eye was more like a shadow and its weight was in front of the eye. Again different from what I would expect to see in a BBAL or even CAAL of that age.

    Lower eyelid: I had to smallify the picture to get it on the website. In the original you can clearly see the contrasting white crescent (similar to adult GHAL).

    Bill tip: Finally, this bird does not show an obvious pale halo between the maxillary unguis and the culminicorn (typical of BBAL)

    Bill colour: I am still a bit confused about the bill colour...



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Newcastle, NSW
    Hi guys,

    My immediate impression of this bird was very much of it being 'short-necked', 'thick-necked'. I tried to ignore the plumage stuff and judge the jizz (hard to do on photos, and even harder to do for a bird I've never seen re: Grey-headed!). I think there is merit in viewing some birds (esp terns, jaegers, young albies) without paying too much attention initially to plumage!

    Anyway...I am curious about the white eye-lid reference (as I mentioned to you earlier Nikolas). Don't Black-brows also have white lower eye-lids but the contrast is just harder to see because of the pale / white heads? Maybe this is your point - that a young Black-browed would not have a head as dark under the eye such that the contrast would be picked up??


  5. #5
    Hi Mick,

    Yes I agree that BBAL and CAAL have white eyelids and that they are harder to see because of the lack of contrast to the normally white head. However, I have never seen a clearly defined white crescent like the one of this bird in a BBAL or CAAL. Maybe because the grey never reached that close to the eye? I think that the shape of the crescent looks quite similar to that of an adult GHAL:

    Name:  GHALWol09222012RWS-6960crop.jpg
Views: 281
Size:  74.3 KB



  6. #6
    Hi all,

    This bird has now been accepted by NSW ORAC (Case 626) as a Grey-headed Albatross. Detailed submission and acceptance letter have been uploaded here:


    From the verdict of this case (#626):
    In this submission the authors have done an excellent job of analysing the key characteristics of young Grey-headed Albatross and the discussion of bill colour and structure goes further than was covered in Case 621. The description and excellent photographs left no doubt as to the identification of this bird."

    From the verdict of Case 621 (referred to above):
    Grey–headed Albatross was recently reinstated to the NSW ORAC Review List because it was believed that many reports of Grey-headed Albatross off the NSW coast in the past could well have been juvenile or immature Black-browed/Campbell Albatross, particularly those seen only at distance. This submission is for a historical sighting in 2010 and the authors have done a remarkable job of analysing the key characteristics of this species and the submission provides a benchmark for identification of young Grey-headed Albatross in the field. Although the bird was seen quite briefly, once again Raja Stephenson captured some very clear images which, along with the text, left no doubt as to the identification of this bird."


    Last edited by nhaass; 23-01-2015 at 07:06 PM.

  7. #7
    Hi all,

    As mentioned in my previous post, the full submissions and acceptance letters of both mentioned Grey-headed Albatross (Cases 621 and 626) and two more cases submitted by Brook Whylie (Cases 604 and 605) are available here:
    Here is one of the photos from Case 621:
    Name:  GHA-July10RWS-2799.jpg
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Size:  78.0 KB


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