It is circumpolar, and ranges across the whole of the South Atlantic Ocean. Some Falkland birds have been recorded as far away as Angola and the Cape of Good Hope. The population has been in decline since the 1990s, predominantly linked to increased mortality at sea due to interaction with commercial fishing. For this reason, it is classified as Endangered by BirdLife International.
Black-browed albatross are migratory, arriving in the Falkland Islands to breed in September and leaving their colonies by the end of April. They may be seen offshore throughout the year in Falkland waters.
They have a pure white head with a black line over and through the eye - ‘the black-brow’. The heavy hooked bill is yellow and pink. The huge wingspan is 210-250cm (7-8ft) with black upperwings and a broad black leading edge to the underwings. The legs and large webbed feet are a flesh-grey colour.
The nest, which is reused every year, is a solid pillar up to 50cm (20ins) high of mud and guano with some grass and seaweed incorporated. They are frequently nest in association rockhopper penguins. The single white egg is laid in early October.
Young fledglings are covered in a soft grey down but by April they have grown their adult plumage and are abandoned by their parents. After losing weight for a few days, they leave the nest to fly out to sea on their own. This can be hazardous as they can get blown astray if the weather turns against them. Young Falkland birds disperse rapidly northwards to southern Brazil not returning to their colony to breed for 7 - 10 years. For more information on breeding sites and their protection go to: Albatross and Petrel Breeding Sites in the Falkland Islands: Suggested Guidelines for Landowners. (1119kb PDF)
Albatross are long lived birds, black-browed albatross areknown to have survived for more than 50 years, and greater albatrosses (Royal and Wandering) can live for over 60 years.
Black-browed Albatross feed largely in the Falkland Current on fish, lobster-krill and squid. They may travel long distances to find the best feeding - sometimes more than 200 miles in a single trip away from the nest. They are successful scavengers of waste and offal discarded from fishing trawlers. Off the South American coast many birds from the Falkland Islands population are killed by longline fishing vessels. To see a booklet issued to fishermen informing them about and encouraging protection of albatross and petrels download: Falklands Conservation Albatross and Petrel Programme: Fishing Together in Harmony. (750kb PDF)
|Photos: Sarah Crofts|