Snowy Albatross Diomedea exulans

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Identification

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Huge albatross of the Southern Ocean; the southernmost breeder of the Wandering Albatross complex (including Snowy, Tristan, Antipodean, and Amsterdam albatrosses). Main colonies on South Georgia in the South Atlantic, and various islands in the southern Indian Ocean, but ranges extensively at sea. Plumage highly variable, starting chocolate-brown with a white face and gradually becoming whiter over many years. Younger birds separated from Southern Royal Albatross by darker tail, brown markings on head and back, and lack of black “lips” on cutting edge of bill. Older birds more difficult to separate; focus on more coarsely marked upperwings, often with conspicuous white patch in center of wing, and lack of black “lips”. Often shows orange stain on cheek, never shown by Southern Royal. Identification from other Wandering-type Albatross, especially “Gibson’s” Antipodean and Tristan, extremely difficult and often presumed by range. Adult male Snowy is the whitest of any Wandering, but intermediate ages often best left unidentified.

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