Short-tailed Albatross (Steller’s Albatross)

The Short-tailed Albatross or Steller’s Albatross, Phoebastria albatrus, is a large rare seabird from the North Pacific. They nest on the Japanese islands of Torishima and Minami-kojima. When at sea feeding they range across the North Pacific, particularly in the Bering Sea where the largest numbers are seen today, but also as far west as California. Although related to the other North Pacific albatrosses, it also displays behavioral and morphological* links to the albatrosses of the Southern Ocean.

The Short-tailed Albatross is a large albatross with a wingspan of around 7 feet. It can be distinguished from the other two species of albatross in its range, the Laysan Albatross and the Black-footed Albatross by its larger size and its pink bill (with a bluish tip), as well as details of its plumage. Its plumage as an adult is overall white with black wings and a yellow-stained head. The juveniles are an all-over brown color.

The Short-tailed Albatross came close to extinction in the later half of the 19th century and early 20th century due to hunting. They were hunted primarily for their feathers and some estimates claim that nearly ten million birds were killed. The Japanese banned hunting of these birds in 1933 after which they believed the bird was extinct. However, about 50 individuals survived and by 2003, with new protection laws, the population has increased to around 1850 birds.

*Morphological: Pertaining to form, structure and geography of animal and plant species.