Sooty Albatrosses

Genus Phoebetria

Two species:

  • Sooty Albatross Phoebetria fusca,
  • Light-mantled Sooty Albatross Phoebetria palbebrata,

Evolution and taxonomy


Both Sooty Albatrosses are from the Southern Hemisphere. The all dark fusca is mainly found in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean and breeds in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago and at Pr. Edward, Marion, Crozet, Kerguelen, Amsterdam and St. Paul Is. The light-mantled palbebrata has a circumpolar distribution and breeds at South Georgia, Pr, Edward, Marion, Crozet, Kerguelen, Heard,  Mc Donald, Maquarie Is. and some Islands in the New Zealand area.


The Phoebetria species are 'small' abatrosses (3-5 kg). Like all other albatrosses the Sooties are perfectly adapted to a gliding flight and dynamic soaring. Nevertheless they are better equipped for a flapping flight, which is expressed by the proportional weight of the flight musculature (ca 9%), smaller wing loading and lower aspect ratio (ca 13.8). Sooty Albatrosses are famous for their synchronous acrobatic flight during courtship.
Feeding is mainly done by surface picking, but Sooty Albatrosses have been observed diving to about 12.4 m (mean 4.7 m) (Prince et al. 1994; Huin & Prince 1997) and are the the best diving albatrosses. Walking and standing is relatively well developed as in the other albatrosses.


Sooty Albatross Phoebetria fusca. Location unknown.
Culmen 107.0 mm, total 180.4 mm, unsexed adult. Courtesey of G. v.d. Brink

  • Flight apparatus
  • Pelvis and legs
  • Vertebrae and ribs
Drawing from Murphy 1936