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Thread: Black-browed or Shy Albatross

  1. #1

    Black-browed or Shy Albatross

    My S&D doesn't have enough information for me to positively ID this bird. The black margins on the underwing are narrower than what is described for the Black-browed. Also there is a distinctive black line from eye to bill as per the Shy description.

    This is from the Sydney pelagic - 9/7/11.

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  2. #2
    Storm-Petrel
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    Hello Boombana,
    Both photos are of Shy Albatross. the top one is an adult, the bottom one an immature. There is way too little dark margin on the underwing for Black-browed and the bill colours are all wrong. Both birds also show a white cap that gives rise to an alternative name (White-capped Albatross) that is now used mostly for the bogus subspecies of shy albatross ("steadi") from NZ.

  3. #3
    Thanks. This has helped me to identify another, a Campbell's A.

  4. #4
    Storm-Petrel
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    Bogus species?

    David,

    Would you please elucidate on your comment about the White-capped Albatross (Thalassarche steadi). If you have some data to support the 'bogus' description, I would love to see it and its provenance.

  5. #5
    Storm-Petrel
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    Hi Harry,

    Thanks for your question. I do not have any data on the taxonomy of “steadi”. Is that a surprise? Who does? In 1997 Robertson and Nunn published a paper claiming that all named taxa of albatrosses are distinct species and all species are monotypic. They did not publish any data. They justified their opinions on choosing the phylogenetic species concept over the biological species concept (i.e. they used a differing from the definition of "species" used by the previous workers on albatross taxonomy and the definiton of "species used then and now worldwide for most other birds). They said they would publish the data in the future. 14 years later I'm still waiting to see the data. All I have seen is a biased political campaign and an intolerance of alternative treatments or criticism. Of course most of these taxa are valid species by any definition, but some do not seem to be valid species. The current NZ checklist seems good. As a relatively minor avian taxonomists (my taxonomic revisions are published in 3 volumes of HANZAB), a seabird ecologist (mostly the traditional tropical “Pelicaniformes”, not Procellariformes), and 30 years of seabirding I reckon (and it is an opinion, I won’t trump it up as science) that there might be 2 species in the Wandering albatross complex (not 5+), 3 in the shy complex (not 4) and 1 species in the Buller's complex. I find it disappointing that after 14 years the “northern” Buller's is still not described. What data are there to show that gibsoni, antipodensis, dabbenena and amsterdamensis are distinct species rather than one? Does anyone have any data to indicate that “steadi” is a species? I would love to see some data that supports that. Has any taxonomy been published since Falla’s original description? I used the word "bogus" for “T. steadi” (as a species) because I think "genuine" would require open, honest, published, peer-reviewed, scientific data. I’d even be happy with evidence that “steadi” is a valid subspecies. I’m most eager to be enlightened and completely open to valid arguments.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by boombana View Post
    Thanks. This has helped me to identify another, a Campbell's A.
    Campbell (not Campbell's) Albatross is a close relative of Black-browed Albatross. Adults show a different underwing pattern (e.g. "hairy armpits"), longer eyebrow and staring yellow eyes.

    Nikolas

  7. #7
    Storm-Petrel Tobias Hayashi's Avatar
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    There is a scientific paper written on the Shy Albatross complex (Abbot, C L, Double, M C, 2003, Phylogeography of shy and white-capped albatrosses inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences: implications for population history and taxonomy, Molecular Ecology (2003)12, 2747–2758) but the paper does not provide conclusive evidence of a separate species, merely indicating that the Shy and White-capped populations are genetically distinct but show less divergence than Salvin's do to Chatham Island.

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