Skip to Content

Amsterdam Albatross: Why is it Endangered?

The Amsterdam Albatross, also known as the Island Albatross of Amsterdam Island, Diomedea amsterdamensis, is a huge albatross that solely breeds on the island in the southern Indian Ocean. The Wandering Albatross was first described in 1983, and some researchers considered it a sub-species of the Exulans. BirdLife International recognizes it as a species, whereas The SACC is considering splitting it into two distinct species.

The Amsterdam Albatross is a magnificent albatross that breeds in brown rather than the more common white plumage. This bird has an average weight of 4.8–8 kg (11–18 lb) and a wingspan of 280–340 cm (110–130 in).

The adult bird has a chocolate brown head and upper body but is white on its face mask, throat, lower breast, and belly. It has a broad brown breast band with brown undertail coverts (vent). Its pink bill has a black tip and dark cutting edges, and its underwings are white save for the black tip and dark leading edge.

  • Status: Critically endangered
  • Known as: Amsterdam Albatross, Amsterdam wandering albatross
  • Estimated numbers left in wild: Perhaps 18 to 25 breeding pairs


Amsterdam Albatross flying above water
Image by JJ HarrisonCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Once thought to be a subspecies of the wandering albatross, DNA testing has proven that the Amsterdam albatross is, indeed, a separate species. The Amsterdam albatross is an enormous bird, with a total body length of 110 to 122 centimeters and a wingspan of up to 340 centimeters.

This bird weighs approximately 5 to 8 kilograms. The back of the adult bird is medium to dark brown in color, while the undersides are white and the face has a white mask.

The chick has white feathers and both young and adults have a pink beak.

Breeding habits

Amsterdam Albatross touching the beak of other Amsterdam Albatross
Image by StormPetrel1 used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Amsterdam albatross breeds only every other year and only in one specific location. The male birds arrive before the females do and nesting begins in the early part of the year (the Southern Hemisphere summer), and both parents breed a single egg.

Once the chick hatches, it is fed every 3 days by the parents, who will travel an astounding 2,200 kilometers in search of food if suitable prey is not available closer to Amsterdam Island. The parents provide so much food to the chick that it will eventually come to weigh more than the mother or father.

It is believed that the Amsterdam albatross only comes ashore to nest and spends the rest of its time in flight. However, so little is known about this rare albatross that its post-nesting distribution is basically unknown.

It is thought that it feeds on squid, fish and crustaceans.


The Amsterdam albatross is found only on Amsterdam Island, French Southern Territories, in the southern Indian Ocean, roughly parallel with the southern coast of Australia.

This is a volcanic island and the birds nest on a high plateau that forms part of the cone at an altitude of between 500–600 meters above sea level.

Albatross reproduction

Amsterdam Albatross sitting on the nest
Image by StormPetrel1 used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Amsterdam albatrosses nest on the open marshy ground every two years. The egg is incubated by both parents for a week at a time, with the hatchling emerging after 80 days. For a month, the tiny bird is sheltered, and it takes 230 days for it to fly.

The nestling’s feedings are impacted by its parents’ schedules, which is why it takes three days to grow accustomed to being fed. The chick grows heavier than its parents as it approaches fledging when the additional reserves are drawn on in order to develop feathers.

The juvenile albatrosses must flee after 5 years at sea, and they will remain there for another 5 before returning to the colony. The Amsterdam Albatrosses’ breeding “language” is comparable to that of the Wandering Albatross.

Albatross habitat

The Amsterdam Albatross is an endangered species. The Amsterdam Islands, (Indian Ocean) are home to this species. It is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals as vulnerable, with a population size range of 5,000 to 19,999 mature individuals and a decreasing population trend. It has been designated an “endangered species” because it subsists almost entirely on squid and other marine crustaceans, and it nests in colonies on islands where invasive predators such as rats are a problem.

The Amsterdam albatross is also under threat from longline fisheries in its range, as well as the Amsterdam Island burrowing petrel. It is fully protected by French law, and the island of Amsterdam is a nature reserve administered by the French authorities. This species was also placed on Appendix I of CITES on June 7, 1979. This means that Amsterdam Albatross is threatened with extinction and international trade is prohibited.

Amsterdam Albatross Behavior

Amsterdam Albatross  flying above the water
Image by StormPetrel1 used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Amsterdam Albatross’ diet is unknown, but it most likely eats fish, squid, and crabs like other albatrosses. It catches its food in the water surface with the bill. In the Indian Ocean, it searches for prey in open water, concentrating around upwellings and where currents meet.

The breeding behavior of this species is presumably similar to that of other Diomedeidae, with well-known, ritualized courtship rituals paired with calls. However, during aerial performances, which are common among this species, two birds may follow each other in flight and at landing while calling.

The majority of them are monogamous and have long-term pair bonds. Parents both take care of all aspects of nesting. The male arrives first on the breeding island, whilst the female comes a week later. They engage in sexual intercourse about a week before the egg is laid.

The Amsterdam Albatross travels to the north after breeding and spends the winter and spring seasons there. It can be found in South Africa between March and October. The species is either migratory or dispersive.

It is distinguished by its enormous wings. It can soar through the air for up to five hours after running over the water like other albatrosses do. Once in flight, it effortlessly glides for several hours. It comes down on a narrow, long stretch of barren ground away from nesting colonies.

See Related: Largest National Park in the World



Amsterdam Albatross with wings open standing over a grass looking towards the camera
Image by StormPetrel1 used under CC BY-NC 2.0

It is likely that the Amsterdam albatross was never plentiful, but a series of unfortunate events have left it on the brink of extinction. Although sailors in the 18th and 19th Centuries did stop on the island for food, including the albatrosses, the greatest threat is from introduced animals.

A failed attempt to settle the island resulted in cattle and goats being left behind when the settlers left.

From a mere 5 cattle, the number blossomed to over 2,000 and these are primarily responsible for the destruction of the albatross’s nesting places and for direct damage to the nesting birds and chicks.

Goats, of course, were in the process of eliminating every bit of foliage on the island, and introduced dogs, pigs, cats, mice, and rats have played havoc with eggs, chicks, and adult birds.

Just when it was thought that the tide had turned in favor of the albatross, a bacterial disease, brought by other seabirds, began to affect the nesting albatrosses.

See Related: Animals That Start With X

Conservation efforts

The only permanent human residents on Amsterdam Island (a French possession) are scientists and some soldiers.

Because feral cattle are also a rare species, a fence has been constructed to keep them away from the nesting albatrosses, but goats have been eradicated as have the dogs and pigs.

Efforts are being made to eliminate the cats as well and to control the rodents. Access to the island is strictly controlled, and a second fence to keep the cattle away from nesting areas has been built.

Because longline fishing has resulted in some Amsterdam albatross deaths, officials have worked with fishermen to reduce these casualties.


Do you know of or are you a part of an organization that works to conserve the Amsterdam Albatross, then please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.


Amsterdam Albatross flying above the water
Image by Vincent LegendreCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Amsterdam Albatross is a white bird found on Amsterdam Island, French Southern Territories, in the southern Indian Ocean. Every other year, they breed only in one specific location. Both parents incubate a single egg from early May (Southern Hemisphere summer) into late June or early July.

The Amsterdam Albatross chick hatches after three months and is fed by its parents, who will travel 2200 kilometers to source food if necessary. It eats squid and fish crustaceans, which are the favorite food of these species. intruder animals such as cattle goats dogs pigs cats and mice destroy eggs, chicks, and adult birds while infesting breeding grounds with a bacterial disease brought by seabirds, all of which threaten the Amsterdam Albatross.

There are an estimated 9,000 to 10,000 individuals in the worldwide Amsterdam Albatross population, with just a local breeder group of these species. According to US Endangered Species Act criteria, the Amsterdam Albatross is critically endangered and threatened by extinction; according to IUCN Red List criteria, it is vulnerable. The Amsterdam albatross is protected by the Netherlands’ Endangered Species Act, the French Southern Territories’ Nature Protection Law, and Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

See Related: Most Interesting Birds in the World


Why does the Amsterdam albatross only breed once every two years?

Amsterdam Albatross is a rare large seabird found in Amsterdam, Mauritius, and Réunion. Because it has been harmed by human activities such as the introduction of invasive plants and animals that compete with it for habitats, accidental wildfires of nesting sites, removal of nest trees from coastal forests, and the destruction of marine food sources through overfishing and pollution, the Amsterdam Albatross only breeds once every two years.

Is Amsterdam Albatross endangered?

Amsterdam Albatross is vulnerable to extinction, with the population declining by at least 9% over 16 yrs. According to information from Amsterdam Albatross’s classification on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species; this species is classified as “Vulnerable.” This means its populations are facing intense pressures and serious threats which increase threats to future populations.
Amsterdam Albatross is currently not granted protection under CITES (Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species), though it may be eligible due to its vulnerability classification; nonetheless, protection or action under other legislation that prevents trade or other activities that might affect these birds should be considered.
Amsterdam Albatross is also listed as “Secure” by NatureServe, meaning it is not currently at risk of extinction; however, its populations are likely to become threatened in the future if steps are not taken to address factors affecting Amsterdam Albatross populations. Apart from that, this type of bird is not listed on any other international conservation list.

How many Amsterdam Albatross are left in the wild and what threatens their numbers?

The Amsterdam albatross is under threat from a decrease in the food supply, fishing nets, marine debris, and oil spills. The major hazard is being caught in longline fishing gear, which hooks and ingesting plastic.

They are threatened by introduced cats and rats on Amsterdam Island when breeding. Cattle farming and fire management have damaged and destroyed the nesting sites, making them susceptible to illnesses. The researchers predicted that there are 170 individuals in all, with 80 mature individuals. Each year, 26 pairs breed. The population is expected to be around 100 mature individuals today.

The Amsterdam Albatross has been classified as Endangered by the IUCN since 1994, and its population is decreasing. Between 1983 and 2009, there was an increase in sightings, although the bird is now listed as Critically Endangered with a small population and very restricted breeding area.

Related Species

Related Resources