Nature conservation

Threatened species

Shy Albatross - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Thalassarche cauta
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Vulnerable
Gazetted date: 31 Jan 1997
Profile last updated: 07 Sep 2017


The Shy Albatross (formerly Diomedea cauta) has a predominantly white body with dark grey wings and back. The brow is dark-grey or black and the sides of the head, neck and throat are grey. Having a wingspan up to 2.6m, the underwing is white with black edges and tip, with a characteristic black patch where the wing joins the body. The bill is grey with a yellow tip and black nasal groove, while the feet, toes and web are blue-grey. Juveniles have darker feet and greyer heads than adults.


This species is circumpolar in distribution, occurring widely in the southern oceans. Islands off Australia and New Zealand provide breeding habitat. In Australian waters, the Shy Albatross occurs along the east coast from Stradbroke Island in Queensland along the entire south coast of the continent to Carnarvon in Western Australia. Although uncommon north of Sydney, the species is commonly recorded off southeast NSW, particularly between July and November, and has been recorded in Ben Boyd National Park.

Habitat and ecology

  • This pelagic or ocean-going species inhabits subantarctic and subtropical marine waters, spending the majority of its time at sea.
  • While at sea, it soars on strong winds and when calm, individuals may rest on the ocean, in groups during the breeding season or as individuals at other times.
  • Occasionally the species occurs in continental shelf waters, in bays and harbours.
  • The species feeds on fish, crustaceans, offal and squid and may forage in mixed-species flocks.
  • Food may be caught by seizing prey from the water's surface while swimming, by landing on top of prey, diving for prey beneath the water and by scavenging behind fishing vessels.
  • Known breeding locations include Albatross Island off Tasmania, Auckland Island, Bounty Island and The Snares, off New Zealand, where nesting colonies of 6-500 nests occur and may contain other species such as the Australian Gannet.
  • Located on sheltered sides of islands, on cliffs and ledges, in crevices and slopes, nests are used annually and consist of a mound of mud, bones, plant matter and rocks.
  • Parents are territorial while nesting, having both defensive and mating displays.
  • Breeding occurs September-December, when a single egg is laid and incubated for 72 days.
  • Both parents feed and guard the young for approximately 5 months before they fledge and become independent.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
OceanBatemans Shelf Known None
OceanHawkesbury Shelf Known None
OceanManning Shelf Known None
OceanSouth Pacific Ocean Known None
OceanTweed-Moreton Known None
OceanTwofold Shelf Known None
Ocean - Other StateSouthern Australian Coastal Waters Known None
Other StateQLD Known None
Other StateSA Known None
Other StateVIC Known None