Wandering albatross

Wandering albatross
Diomedea exulans - SE Tasmania.jpg
Scientific classification edit
D. exulans
Binomial name
Diomedea exulans

Diomedea exulans exulans(Linnaeus, 1758)[2]
Diomedea exulans gibsoni

The wandering albatross, snowy albatross, white-winged albatross or goonie[3] (Diomedea exulans) is a large seabird from the family Diomedeidae, which has a circumpolar range in the Southern Ocean. It was the last species of albatross to be described, and was long considered the same species as the Tristan albatross and the Antipodean albatross. A few authors still consider them all subspecies of the same species.[4] The SACC has a proposal on the table to split this species,[5] and BirdLife International has already split it. Together with the Amsterdam albatross, it forms the wandering albatross species complex. The wandering albatross is one of the two largest members of the genus Diomedea (the great albatrosses), being similar in size to the southern royal albatross. It is one of the largest birds in the world and has the greatest known wingspan of any living bird, and one of the best known and studied species of bird in the world. This is also one of the most far ranging birds. Some individual wandering albatrosses are known to circumnavigate the Southern Ocean three times, covering more than 120,000 km (75,000 mi), in one year.[6]


The wandering albatross was first described as Diomedea exulans by Carl Linnaeus, in 1758, based on a specimen from the Cape of Good Hope.[3] Diomedea refers to Diomedes whose companions turned to birds, and exulans or exsul are Latin for "exile" or "wanderer" referring to its extensive flights.[7] There are two subspecies:

  • Diomedea exulans exulans
  • Diomedea exulans gibsoni (sometimes known as Gibson's albatross, and treated as a full species, Diomedea gibsoni, by some authorities[8])

The gibsoni subspecies nests in the Auckland Islands.[9]

In flight

Some experts considered there to be four subspecies of D. exulans, which they elevated to species status, and use the term wandering albatross to refer to a species complex that includes the proposed species D. antipodensis, D. dabbenena, D. exulans, and D. gibsoni.[10]

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