the Legacy continues…………………….
Gregory R. Mann, Ph.D. {ret.}

Shy Albatross

“Thalassarche cauta”

The Shy Albatross is one of the albatross family found primarily in the southern hemisphere and in particular around a corridor from Australia to South Africa and further south. When seen on land though, the Shy Albatross is mainly observed upon 3 different Australian islands off of the other island of Tasmania. The name albatross came from the Arabic word al-câdous or al-ġaţţās. This means “the diver” and later became English, also mixed with the Portuguese word alcatraz. This is also where the name of the prison Alcatraz comes from. They are also called the White-capped Albatross. The Shy Albatross on average, is 95 centimeters in length with a wingspan of about 240 centimeters and is normally about 4 kilograms in weight, which combined with the large wingspan allows for extended periods of flight like all other albatrosses. The Shy Albatross is primarily black and white with some slate-grey. These seabirds also have a black thumb mark located on their under wing areas, something that is often used in the identification of the Shy Albatross. A white head is contrasted by dark eyebrows and also a paler grey facial area as well as having a yellow to grey bill.

The primary diet of the Shy Albatross is made up of fish & squid taken from the sea’s surface and also up to 5 meters below the surface. The increase in the number of fishing vessels in the past few decades has also provided the Shy Albatross with additional food sources, as they take off the vessel’s offal & waste. The fishing vessels though are not the savior of the Shy Albatross and kill many hundreds of the different species albatross every year. An albatross like the Shy Albatross can often get caught in nets & lines as they dive for fish. Today there are thought to be some 26,000 Shy Albatross in the wild, with numbers decreasing slightly year on year. During the breeding season, the majority of the Shy Albatross are to be found on Mewstone Islands and Albatross Island with a smaller number also found Pedra Branca. This limited number of breeding sites though means that an ecological threat to the islands could lead to the extinction of the bird, hence the Near Threatened classification. During the September breeding season, the Shy Albatross will make a best out of soil & vegetation into this nest a single egg will be lain. The Shy Albatross is not the most common of albatrosses and its range means that it doesn’t fly near to inhabited areas.


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