Light-mantled sooty albatross

Light-mantled sooty albatross on nest, Macquarie Island
Light-mantled sooty albatross on nest, Macquarie Island (Photo: Tracy Tarves)
Light-mantled sooty albatross, soaring off Syowa stationLight-mantled sooty albatross soaringLight-mantled sooty albatross landing at nest sitePair of light-mantled sooty albatrossesSooty albatross calls out to its mateCourtship behaviour by light-mantled sooty albatrossLight-mantled sooty albatross over Macquarie Island

Scientific name: Phoebetria palpebrata

Physical description

Light-mantled sooty albatrosses have a dark grey head and a light grey body with a distinctive white crescent surrounding most of the eye.

They are one of the smaller albatross in the Antarctic and subantarctic, with a wingspan of approximately 2.2 metres.


Light-mantled sooty albatross are the most abundant breeding albatrosses on Macquarie Island, where approximately 1000 pairs nest every year.

In the 19th century, light-mantled sooty albatrosses were named ‘Blue Bird’ by sealers because their plumage looked blue in strong Antarctic light.

Conservation status: near threatened with population trends decreasing

Research shows that decreasing populations are due to the birds being caught in long-line fishing operations.


Nests of light-mantled sooty albatross are made from mud with some plant material, and is usually lined with grasses. It is a low mound, 15–30cm high and 45–55cm at base.

Light-mantled sooty albatross are solitary nesters, although occasionally they will nest in small colonies of up to 15 nests. Little is known of their behaviour during the non-breeding period, which is spent entirely at sea.

The breeding cycle of light-mantled sooty albatross is the same as that of wandering albatross, i.e. once every two years. However, the fledging period of light-mantled sooty albatrosses is only five months, while the fledging period of wandering albatross is almost one year.

Diet and feeding

The diet of light-mantled sooty albatross is primarily composed of cephalopods and euphausiids, but they also take fish and carrion.