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Sep 11 2011

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Bullers Albatross (Thalassarche bulleri)


Bullers Albatross

[order] PROCELLARIIFORMES | [family] Diomedeidae | [latin] Thalassarche bulleri | [authority] Rothschild, 1893 | [UK] Bullers Albatross | [FR] Albatros de bulleri | [DE] Bullers Albatros | [ES] Albatros de Buller | [NL] Bullers Albatros

Subspecies

Monotypic species

Genus

Albatrosses are the ‘largest’ birds in terms of wingspan. Royal Abatrosses, for instance, may reach a wing span of almost 3.5m, which make them look like feathered sail plaines. They are also the largest members of the tubenose family. Only the smallest albatross species are equalled in size by the Giant Petrels (Macronectes). Albatrosses occur in all oceans, except the northern part of the Atlantic. In ancient times they were also present in that part of the world, but nowadays only an occasional straggler find its way to the North Atlantic. Most of the 24 species are Southern Hemisphere breeders, only three actually breed north of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean.
Albatross taxonomy is subject of discussion for a long time, and has been at times rather chaotic. Based on external characters: plumage patterns, tail shapes, bill structure (size, organization of the plates and coloration) albatrosses were, until recently, divided in 13-14 species in four ‘natural groups': the Great Albatrosses, the Mollymawks, the North Pacific Albatrosses, grouped in the genus Diomedea and the Sooty Albatrosses Phoebastria. More recently DNA-analyses supports the division in four distinct groups but the were elevated to a generic status and has led to a splitting into 24 species: Great Albatrosses Diomedea (7 species), the Northern (Pacific) Albatrosses Phoebastria (4 species), the southern Mollymawks Thalassarche (11 species) and the Sooty Albatrosses Phoebetria (2 species). Recently this taxonomy is challenged by who proposed to lump some of the ‘species’ again based on their molecular analysis. Since then the discussion flared up and has not ended yet. Some list six species of Great Albatrosses, including two subspecies of Antipodian Albatross.

Physical charateristics

Buller’s Albatross is a lightly built albatross that is 76-80 cm long and has a wingspan of 200-213 cm. Males are slightly larger than females. The bill is long and slender, with striking black and yellow colouration: yellow on the top and bottom of the bill, and black on the sides. They have a light grey head, prominent white or silvery-white forcap and a dark area in front of the eyes . The underparts are very pale grey, with a wide black margin on the leading edge of the wing, a narrow black margin on the trailing edge and white in-between

Listen to the sound of Bullers Albatross

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Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Frank Lambert


wingspan min.: 200 cm wingspan max.: 213 cm
size min.: 79 cm size max.: 81 cm
incubation min.: 70 days incubation max.: 75 days
fledging min.: 130 days fledging max.: 150 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  

Range

Pacific Ocean : New Zealand. Thalassarche bulleri is endemic to New Zealand. There are colonies on the Snares (8713 pairs) and Solander (4912) Islands in the south, Forty-Fours (c.14500) and Big and Little Sister (2150) Islands in the Chatham Island group, and Rosemary Rock, Three Kings Islands (20 pairs) off North Island.

Habitat

Buller’s Albatross are marine and pelagic, inhabiting subtropical and subantarctic waters of the southern Pacific Ocean. Specific habitat requirements are poorly known, but they have been observed in association with fishing boats close inshore and over waters 180-360 m deep in New Zealand. This species does not appear to be as strongly associated with fishing boats as other albatrosses.

Reproduction

Buller’s Albatross form tight pair bonds and mate for life. Arrival at breeding grounds occurs in mid-December with males generally arriving first. Breeding occurs between December-October. This species breeds colonially, with groups of 2-12 (generally less than 20), irregularly scattered nests at densities of about 1 nest/m2. Egg laying occurs over an eight week period, between January-February. Incubation lasts for 26 days and most young fledge by September.

Feeding habits

Buller’s Albatross feeds mostly on squid, supplemented by fish, krill and tunicates. Buller’s Albatross probably takes food by surface-seizing, although they have been recorded following fishing boats as well as diving to 10 m into swarming euphausiids at Snares Island. Most feeding has been observed during the day

Video Bullers Albatross

copyright: Neil Robertson


Conservation

This species has been listed as Near Threatened because, although it is restricted to a tiny small area when breeding, the population is stable and the islands on which it breeds are moderately widely spread so it is unlikely to become highly threatened in a short time owing to human activities or stochastic events.
Thalassarche bulleri is endemic to New Zealand. There are colonies on the Snares (8713 pairs) and Solander (4912) Islands in the south, Forty-Fours (c.14500) and Big and Little Sister (2150) Islands in the Chatham Island group, and Rosemary Rock, Three Kings Islands (20 pairs) off North Island. This totals approximately 30500 breeding pairs. The Snares Islands population has almost doubled since 1969, but the rate of increase has slowed in the 1990s. The Solander Islands population appears to have remained relatively stable during 1985-1996, and has increased by around 18% during 1996-2002. The Chatham Island population is thought to be stable.
Bullers Albatross status Near Threatened

Migration

Race bulleri seems relatively sedentary, dispersing to adjacent waters and W to S Tasmania. Race platei apparently migratory, moving E across S Pacific to W coast of S America; probably returns by same route.

Distribution map

Bullers Albatross distribution range map

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