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.
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