Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis Scientific name definitions

Jill A. Awkerman, David J. Anderson, and G. Causey Whittow
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated September 30, 2009


Field Identification

Small albatross (79–81 cm long; wing span 195–203 cm; mean body mass = 2.4 kg, range 1.9–3.1; Harrison et al. 1983).

Adults: Legs and webbed feet grayish-pink. Bill pink with grey hooked tip. Head, neck, and underparts white. Upper wings and back dark sooty brown. White U-shaped vent area between dark upper rump and tail. Dark tail band visible during flight. Underwings have thick black leading edges and wing tips, and large black patches near the base within the central white areas. Gray-black patch in front of the eye extending as a thin supraorbital line behind the eye. Gray wash on cheeks.

Juveniles: Very similar to adults but without gray wash on head. Bill and flesh on feet are duller in color.

Similar Species

Distinguished from the partly sympatric Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) by the uniformly sooty plumage of the latter. The other North Pacific albatross, the Short-tailed Albatross (P. albatrus), is much rarer and larger, with a heavier bright pink bill, and a yellow wash to the plumage on the back of the head and neck (Harrison 1990a). Under wings of P. albatrus are all white, and upperwings and the back between the wings show much white (King 1967).

Recommended Citation

Awkerman, J. A., D. J. Anderson, and G. C. Whittow (2020). Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.layalb.01