Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta) Description

shy albatross

The shy albatross or the shy mollymawk scientific name Thalassarche cauta is a medium-sized albatross that breeds across three Australian islands and ranges across the South Indian Ocean.

Some authorities call the species white-covered albatross.

Shy albatross Description

The shy albatross averages 90 to 99 cm (35-39 inches), wings 220 to 256 cm, and weight 4.1 kg (9.0 pounds).

Sister breeds of the same size, albatross of Salvin, as well as this species, are considered to be the largest among mollymawks or small albatrosses.

It is a black, white, and slate-gray bird with black thumb markings featured on the top edge of the underwing of the shy albatross.

The adult shy albatross has a white forehead and a crown adorned with a dark eyebrow and a pale gray face underneath.

Its cover, tail, and upper part are gray-black and the rest white. Its bill is prominent yellow and gray-yellow with a yellow tip.


Shy albatross often follows fishing boats to a long distance in search of food.


It is a combination surface-grab and feeds by some exploration diving – it has been recorded diving as deep as 5 meters (16 feet). Fish, cephalopods, crustacea, and tunicates are nourishing for this shy albatross species.


It breeds on rocky islands and creates round-enclosed nests of soil, grass, and roots. They lay an egg in the second half of September.


It is a native breeder of Australia and breeds in three island colonies; The island of Albatross, Pedra Branca, and Mewstone.

During the breeding season, adults concentrate around South Australia and Tasmania. Teenage shy albatross are known to fly as far as South Africa.

Otherwise, non-breeding birds are found throughout the Southern Ocean, but it is difficult to determine the specificity due to their similarity with other species.

It is sometimes found off the Pacific coast of the United States.

shy albatross


The IUCN has classified this species as a threat, with a range of 23,900,000 km2 (9,200,000 square miles).

According to an estimate in 2007, there were 25,500 species of birds with 5,100 pairs on the island of Albatross, 270 pairs in Pedra Branca, and 7,380 breeding birds in Mewstone.

Historically, they were exploited for their feathers and of which only 1 pair were left on the island of Albatross.

Today, prolonged fishing still affects this species, but their numbers are maintained despite this threat.

They had an avian pox outbreak on Albatross Island that affected their numbers slightly.

Finally, the Australian Janet, Maurice Starter, is the primary threat to their survival.

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