Thalassarche melanophrys (Black-browed albatross) 

[= Diomedea melanophris

Swartrugalbatros, Swartrugmalmok [Afrikaans]; Mallemok, Malmokalbatros [Dutch]; Albatros à sourcils noirs [French]; Schwarzbrauenalbatroß [German]; Albatroz-olheirudo [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes > Family: Diomedeidae

Thalassarche melanophrys (Black-browed albatross)  Thalassarche melanophrys (Black-browed albatross) 
Black-browed albatross adult, offshore from Cape Town, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Black-browed albatross juvenile, offshore from Cape Town, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]
Thalassarche melanophrys (Black-browed albatross) 

Black-browed albatross adult, offshore from Cape Town, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds on sub-Antarctic islands, dispersing across the southern Oceans, including in southern African waters. Here it is common off the west and south coast, while more scarce off northern Namibia and KwaZulu-Natal, generally favouring the shelf break (where the deep ocean and continental shelf meet).

Movements and migrations

Most birds in southern African waters originate from South Georgia, to a much lesser extent the Falkland and Kerguelen Islands. After breeding it rapidly migrates across the South Atlantic Ocean to the Western Cape, typically averaging 48km/hr.


Roughly 80% of its diet consists of discards and offal from fishing vessels, supplemented with squid and pelagic crustaceans. It does most of its foraging by catching food items from the water surface, rarely plunging to the water up to a depth of six metres. An oppurtunistic feeder, as it sometimes follows cetaceans and steals from Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus).


Previously considered Near-threatened, it has now been reclassified as Endangered, largely due to longline and other fishery-related mortalities. It has an estimated world population of 2.5 milllion indivuals, but just in southern African waters roughly 5000-10 000 individuals where killed between 1999 and 2000.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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