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Discover the Majestic Buller’s Albatross: From Plumage to Behavior

Bird: Buller’s Albatross,Thalassarche bulleriThe Buller’s Albatross, also known by its scientific name Thalassarche bulleri, is a magnificent bird that can be found in the waters of the Southern Hemisphere. It is a beautiful creature with a majestic wingspan that is sure to leave an impression on anyone who sees it.

In this article, we will explore everything there is to know about this amazing bird species, including its identification, different plumages, molts, and more!


One of the most striking features of the Buller’s Albatross is its wingspan, which can reach over three meters. In addition, this bird has a black tip on its bill, a dark crown, and a beautiful white face.

Its back is also dark and contrasts with a white underbelly. These markings make it easy to identify the bird among other albatross species.



When identifying the Buller’s Albatross in the field, you should look for the following features:

– A large bird with a wingspan of up to 3.4 meters. – A body with black streaks, a white belly, and a dark cap or hood.

– A distinctive black tip on its bill.

Similar Species

The Buller’s Albatross can sometimes be confused with the Salvin’s Albatross, which is another bird species found in the same regions. The Salvin’s Albatross, however, has a more evenly-coloured head and a smaller billing than the Buller’s.

Moreover, the Salvin’s albatross also has a broader and more varied band of black around the base of its beak.


Buller’s Albatrosses have three different plumages, and these include the Juvenile, Immature, and Adult plumages, which vary in colours and patterns. During the breeding season which takes place between September and June, all these birds have white heads and blue eyes.

However, during the non-breeding season, the juvenile has a grey head and brown eyes while the immature has a head like that of an adult but with darker eyes.


Buller’s Albatrosses, like many other birds, undergo molting stages, and this can affect their appearance. These birds typically molt annually, and this affects their overall appearance.

During the process, they replace their feathers to allow proper growth and improve their general appearance. The molting process usually takes over five months.


In conclusion, the Buller’s Albatross is an incredible bird species. With its large wingspan and striking features, it is a sight to behold.

In this article, we have explored various aspects of this amazing bird species, including its identification, plumages, and molting stages. Whether you are a bird enthusiast or just curious about the natural world, learning about the Buller’s Albatross is a fascinating experience.

Systematics History

The Buller’s Albatross (Thalassarche bulleri) is a member of the albatross family, and its taxonomic classification has been subject to change over time. Originally, it was considered a subspecies of the Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta), but molecular studies have shown that it is a distinct species.

In this article, we will explore the systematics history of the Buller’s Albatross, including its geographic variation, subspecies, related species, and historical changes to its distribution.

Geographic Variation

Buller’s Albatrosses have a circumpolar breeding range in the Southern Ocean, spanning from southern New Zealand to southern Chile. Within this range, there is significant geographic variation.

The birds that breed on the Auckland Islands, for example, are darker and have a bluish sheen to their feathers. In contrast, the birds that breed on the Campbell Islands are paler and have more grey feathers.

The birds that breed on the Antipodes Islands are intermediate in coloration.


There are two recognized subspecies of the Buller’s Albatross: Thalassarche bulleri bulleri and Thalassarche bulleri platei. The former breeds on the Antipodes, Bounty, Snares, and Auckland Islands, while the latter breeds on the Campbell Islands.

The two subspecies are genetically distinct and differ in morphology, vocalizations, and moult patterns. However, some experts argue that the differences between the two subspecies are not significant enough to justify their classification as separate subspecies.

Related Species

The Buller’s Albatross is closely related to several other albatross species, including the Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta), the Salvin’s Albatross (Thalassarche salvini), the Chatham Albatross (Thalassarche eremita), and the White-capped Albatross (Thalassarche steadi). The Shy Albatross was once considered a subspecies of the Buller’s Albatross, but they are now recognized as separate species.

The Salvin’s Albatross is very similar to the Buller’s Albatross but has a more uniform head color and a broader band of black around its beak. The Chatham Albatross has a distinctive bill shape, a more restricted distribution, and colonies on the Chatham Islands and Pitt Island.

The White-capped Albatross is also closely related, but it has a white cap and a shorter wingspan than the Buller’s Albatross.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The distribution of the Buller’s Albatross has changed over time, primarily due to human activities. For example, the introduction of predators such as rats, cats, and mice to some of the breeding islands has led to declines in Buller’s Albatross populations.

The development of commercial fishing has also led to the accidental capture of albatrosses in fishing gear, which has had a negative impact on their populations. In the past, the Buller’s Albatross bred on the Chatham Islands, but it was extirpated from this location due to hunting and egg collecting.

The species has also declined on some of the islands where it still breeds, such as the Snares Islands and the Bounty Islands. Overall, the conservation status of the Buller’s Albatross is considered to be vulnerable, and efforts are underway to protect its breeding habitat and reduce the impact of human activities on the species.


In conclusion, the Buller’s Albatross is a fascinating bird species with a complex systematics history, including geographic variation, subspecies, and related species. The distribution of the species has changed over time, primarily due to human activities, and its conservation status is now considered vulnerable.

By understanding the systematics history and conservation needs of the Buller’s Albatross, we can work to protect this magnificent bird and ensure its survival for generations to come.


Buller’s Albatrosses are pelagic birds and are mainly found in the open ocean, where they spend most of their lives. They are typically found in temperate waters, especially around sub-Antarctic islands, where they breed.

These birds prefer to nest on isolated islands, where the risk of predation is lower. Buller’s Albatrosses prefer to nest on grassy slopes and cliffs, and they construct nests from mud, grass, and other materials.

They mate for life and return to the same nest site year after year. During the breeding season, they spend most of their time on land, incubating eggs and caring for their young.

Outside the breeding season, they spend most of their time flying over the open ocean, where they find food.

Movements and Migration

Buller’s Albatrosses are highly migratory birds and make extensive movements across the Southern Ocean. During the non-breeding season, they are known to roam over large areas of ocean and can travel thousands of kilometers in search of food.

In particular, satellite tracking data has shown that Buller’s Albatrosses from the Snares, Auckland, and Campbell Islands migrate to the area between Australia and Antarctica during the non-breeding season. These birds then travel eastward to the coast of South America during the southern hemisphere winter.

During this migration, they fly over some of the roughest and most remote ocean areas in the world, making them well-adapted to life at sea. One interesting feature of Buller’s Albatrosses migration is their ability to navigate using celestial cues, such as the position of the sun and stars.

This allows them to navigate accurately across vast distances, even in the absence of landmarks or other visual cues. Additionally, they also have a keen sense of smell, which helps them to locate food sources over long distances.

However, despite their impressive capabilities, Buller’s Albatrosses face numerous threats throughout their migratory route. These threats range from habitat loss and degradation, pollution, ingestion of plastics, and accidental capture in fishing gear.


As mentioned earlier, Buller’s Albatross populations are threatened due to human activities. In particular, the introduction of invasive species such as rats, cats, and mice on breeding islands has had a profound impact on the species.

These predators have hunted both the adults and chicks and have also consumed their eggs. The development of commercial fishing activities has also had a significant negative impact on their populations since these birds are easily trapped in fishing lines while diving after bait.

As a result, Buller’s Albatross is classified on the International Union for

Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as a vulnerable species, and efforts are underway to protect them from extinction. One of the most important conservation strategies for the Buller’s Albatross is the protection of their breeding and nesting sites.

This includes the management of invasive species on breeding islands, the provision of safe nesting materials, and the monitoring of populations to detect any signs of decline or distress. Additionally, measures are also in place to reduce the impact of commercial fishing activities on Buller’s Albatross populations.

These include the use of specialized fishing gear that reduces the risk of accidental capture and the establishment of protected areas where fishing activities are restricted or prohibited.


In conclusion, Buller’s Albatross is a remarkable bird species that has captured the imagination of scientists and nature enthusiasts throughout the world. This bird species spends the majority of its life at sea, travelling over vast distances as it navigates its way across the southern ocean.

However, the human activities are putting a significant threat to the survival of this species, and some efforts have started to protect these birds from extinction. Therefore, appropriate conservation measures need to be taken to ensure the survival of Buller’s Albatross populations for future generations.

Diet and Foraging

The Buller’s Albatross is a pelagic bird that spends most of its life at sea, and its diet consists mainly of fish, squid, and crustaceans. These birds are opportunistic feeders and are known to scavenge on carrion and follow fishing boats in search of food.


Buller’s Albatrosses have a unique feeding strategy that allows them to conserve energy while searching for food. They use their keen eyesight to locate prey sitting at the surface of the ocean.

They then take off and use a combination of gliding and soaring flight to approach the prey, saving energy by minimizing the flapping of their wings. When they reach the prey, they plunge into the water to capture it.


The diet of the Buller’s Albatross varies depending on where they are foraging. They mainly feed on cephalopods such as squid and small fish such as silverfish and sand-eels.

These birds are also known to feed on crustaceans such as krill and amphipods and occasionally take larger fish such as lanternfish.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Buller’s Albatrosses have a low metabolic rate and are capable of surviving for long periods without food. They have a rete mirabile, a complex heat exchange system in their legs that helps them to conserve heat.

This adaptation is crucial for their survival in the Southern Ocean, where water temperatures can be near freezing. These birds are also capable of regulating their body temperature through behavior.

When they are cold, they fluff up their feathers, which traps warm air close to their skin. When they are too warm, they pant and release heat through their beaks.

Sounds and Vocal


Albatrosses are known for their distinctive vocalizations, and the Buller’s Albatross is no exception. These birds use vocalizations to communicate with each other and to establish territories during the breeding season.


Buller’s Albatrosses produce a wide variety of sounds, including grunts, clucks, and cackles. Male albatrosses use their vocalizations to attract females and maintain their territory.

During the breeding season, males will often make a repetitive cackling sound while displaying to female albatrosses. In addition to cackling, Buller’s Albatrosses are also known to engage in bill-rattling behaviors.

This involves clacking their bills together rapidly, which creates a noise that can be heard over long distances. This behavior is used to establish dominance and is particularly common during the breeding season.


In conclusion, Buller’s Albatrosses have unique adaptations that allow them to survive in the harsh conditions of the Southern Ocean. Their diet is primarily composed of fish, squid, and crustaceans, which they capture using a combination of soaring and gliding flight.

These birds are also capable of regulating their body temperature through behavior and have a complex vocal repertoire that they use to communicate with each other. Understanding the feeding, vocal, and metabolic behaviors of the Buller’s Albatross is crucial for their conservation and protection for future generations.


The Buller’s Albatross is a fascinating bird species that exhibits complex behaviors across a wide range of activities, including locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, and sexual behavior.


As mentioned earlier, Buller’s Albatrosses primarily use soaring and gliding flight to conserve energy when foraging for food. They are capable of flying long distances and can stay aloft for hours at a time without flapping their wings.

On land, they are less mobile and rely on walking, hopping, and flapping their wings to move around. They also use their wings to balance themselves while perching on cliffs and other elevated sites.

Self Maintenance

Buller’s Albatrosses are also fastidious about their appearance and devote a significant amount of time to preening their feathers. This behavior is important for maintaining the health of their plumage and the waterproofing of their feathers.



Buller’s Albatrosses are known to engage in agonistic behavior, particularly during the breeding season. They are highly territorial and will aggressively defend their nests from other birds and predators.

This behavior includes bill-clacking, wing-raising, and other aggressive displays. Sexual


During the breeding season, Buller’s Albatrosses engage in a variety of sexual behaviors, such as courtship displays and copulation.

Courtship displays involve various vocalizations, bill-rattling, and posturing, while copulation can occur anywhere from the nest to in flight.


Like other albatross species, the Buller’s Albatross is a long-lived bird that exhibits high levels of parental investment in its offspring. These birds typically begin breeding at around six years old and mate for life.

Buller’s Albatrosses breed in colonies on isolated, subantarctic islands, with pairs typically nesting on grassy slopes or cliffs. Both parents take turns incubating the egg, which hatches after around 80 days.

The chick is then fed through regurgitation, and both parents participate in chick-rearing until it is able to fly and fend for itself.

Demography and Populations

Buller’s Albatross populations are considered to be vulnerable due to a range of factors, including habitat loss, the introduction of invasive species, and by-catch in commercial fishing activities. Recent estimates suggest that the global population of Buller’s Albatrosses is between 70,000 and 80,000 individuals, with the majority breeding on a few subantarctic islands in the southern hemisphere.

However, population trends are uncertain due to the difficulty of accurately estimating populations. While conservation efforts have been put in place, including the establishment of protected breeding habitats and the use of modified fishing gear, the species is still classified as vulnerable.

Therefore, continued monitoring and conservation efforts are essential to support the sustainability of the Buller’s Albatross population.


The Buller’s Albatross is a remarkable bird species that exhibits complex behaviors across a number of categories, including locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, and sexual behavior. They breed in colonies on isolated subantarctic islands, engage in high levels of parental investment, and are subject to a range of threats from human activities.

It is important to continue studying and conserving this species to ensure their survival and support the sustainability of their populations for future generations. In conclusion, the Buller’s Albatross is a remarkable bird species that provides us with fascinating insights into the natural world.

From their unique adaptations to surviving in the harsh conditions of the

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