Black-footed Albatross

Phoebastria albatrus / Ka‘upu
Black-footed albatross


  • Black-footed albatross have a dusky brown body and mantle with white border around the base of the bill and under tail; and black feet.
  • They are diurnal surface feeders. Unlike the Laysan Albatross, whose retinas possess a high level of rhodopsin enabling better night vision, the black-foots have limited nocturnal vision.
  • Squid, which float to the surface during darkness, are much more accessible to Laysans. Black-foots, on the other hand, rely on flying fish eggs, which are easier to locate during the day. The competition for food between Black-footed and Laysan Albatross is reduced due to this difference in prey items and feeding behaviors
  • Albatross are pelagic birds meaning they spend the majority of their life on the open ocean and only venture back to land to breed. Pelagic birds are powerful fliers with exceptionally long, thin wings. They can remain in flight for days or weeks, sleeping in-flight, while staying hundreds to thousands of miles offshore. They also have a special salt gland that helps them extract excess salt from their body. This allows them to drink seawater and ingest water from prey without accumulating toxic levels of salt in their bloodstream.
  • They are monogamous and mate for life. If one of the mates should disappear or die, a new pair bond is created. Couples start reproducing after seven years, mating every two years.
  •  Nests are made up of pieces of surrounding grasses, sand, or shrubbery. Black-foots like to nest in more open, less vegetated areas as compared to Laysans. Breeding begins in early November. One egg is laid and incubation lasts about 65 days. Both male and female incubate the egg. Incubation starts with the females who usually stay for a short two day span. The female leaves soon after hatching to recover nutrients used for egg-laying. The male then takes over, sometimes as long as three weeks. If the egg is infertile or breaks during incubation, relaying will not occur during that year.
  • Both adults feed the chick by regurgitation. The chick will peck at the lower beak of the parent which stimulates the parent to regurgitate. The rich squid and stomach oil is filled with fatty acids and nutrients that can sustain a chick for a number of days while the parent goes out to sea in search of more food. Fledging occurs 4-5 months after hatching (June and July). Similar to the Laysans, the parents will often leave before the chicks have reached their full juvenile plumage. Relying on their fat reserves, the chicks survive on land, practicing take-offs until they master flight.
  • Sub-adults return to their natal colony at three years of age but do not mate and nest until at least age five. 


Facts About Black-footed Albatross


Daytime surface feeders - primarily flying fish eggs. They rely on flying fish eggs, which are easier to locate during the day. They also feed on squid and crustaceans.  

Life Span
12-40 years

Length: 64-74 cm 25.6.6-29.6 in); wingspan: 193-216 cm (6-7 ft)