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Thread: The White-Headed Grey-Headed Albatross (juvenile Grey-headed Albatrosses)

  1. #1

    The White-Headed Grey-Headed Albatross (juvenile Grey-headed Albatrosses)

    I'm posting this on behalf of Lindsay. Cheers Brook

    The Grey-headed albatross Thalassarche chysostoma is considered rare in NSW coastal waters and has only recently been taken off the list of species that require a submission the NSW rarities committee. Yet the status of the species is rare in NSW waters. It is interesting to note that a search of available literature indicated that all specimens recovered in NSW have been of juvenile and immature birds only.

    Our records from Wollongong would also indicate that adult Grey-heads are extremely rare or absent from our regional waters. Preferring instead the colder waters south of the Sub-Tropical Convergence.

    Juvenile Grey-headed albatrosses are easily identified from all other Mollymawks. The combination of grey head and dark underwings and blackish bill separate it from the Black-browed and Campbell Albatrosses. Due to feather wear during the first 12 months at sea. The tips of the feathers of the head and neck wear to show their white bases. They therefore become White-headed, Grey-headed Albatrosses.

    They become incredibly cryptic resembling Immature and Juvenile Black-browed albatrosses. This is especially the case with young Campbell Albatrosses.

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    Great care is required when identifying young Grey-heads, particularly 2nd and 3rd year birds. I am certain that this species is overlooked on occasion as it is so cryptic amongst juveniles of the fore mentioned species. At most breeding colonies to two species nest together, with the Grey-heads slightly higher up in tussocks.

    In general the Grey-headed albatross has a similar jizz to that of the Yellow-nosed albatross. The Grey- headed is slightly larger than that species and of a slighter build than either the Black-browed or Campbell albatrosses. The bill (colour) collars and underwing patterns of the two above spices can be identical to that of the Grey-headed albatross.

    The Grey-headed albatross is a timid bird and rarely comes close to boats. It is reluctant to compete directly with the more aggressive Black-browed albatrosses. Instead it will hang back and will readily dive below the surface to retrieve sinking scraps of food.

    Lindsay E. Smith-SOSSA

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  2. #2
    Storm-Petrel
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    thank you for the information.

  3. #3
    I'm posting this on behalf of Lindsay. Cheers Brook

    Further notes on Juvenile Grey-headed Albatrosses.

    As can be seen from the image below, not all juvenile Grey-headed albatrosses have blackish bills. It is birds, such as the one below that present the greatest challange for identification. This individual was captured, measured, banded and released. Other wise this bird most likely would have been passed off as a juvenile Black-browed Alby. This stage of juvenile plumage is the most typical of the birds observed off Wollongong in the past.

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    Juvenile Grey-headed albatross (note bill colour). Image: Dean Portelli

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    Underwing pattern of Juvenile Grey-headed albatross. Image: Dean Portelli

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    Grey-headed albatross with Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses. Image: Dean Portelli

  4. #4
    Here are a few of Raja's images of two mollymawks that were IDd (unfortunately not caught and measured) as 2nd year Grey-headed Albatrosses: 13th September 2008, 25th April 2009 (Brook's picture of the latter also appeared in Lindsay's article on white-headed Grey-headed Albatross in SOSSA's newsletter No. 43, July 2009). In both cases there was a discussion about their ID "Grey-headed vs. Black-browed" underlining the difficulty of the ID of some immatures of the two species.

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    Cheers,

    Nikolas

  5. #5
    Sorry, the order got screwed up a bit:
    13th September 2008: 6 pictures of the dark-collared bird (all 6 pictures arranged in a landscape rectangle)
    25th April 2009: 2 pictures of the white-headed bird (bottom and far right pictures - at least on my screen)

  6. #6
    Storm-Petrel Tobias Hayashi's Avatar
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    If, indeed, not all juvenile Grey-headed Albatrosses have black bills as the banded bird seems to indicate, then one must question whether Black-browed vs Grey-headed can be reliably told in the field from plumage/bare parts. Not including size, jizz, wing proportions, possible moult etc. they would be extremely difficult to tell apart based on the above photos.

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