Grey-headed Albatross

These "gold-mouthed" mollymawks live at sea but spend most of their lives in the air, protecting their title as world's fastest horizontal flier

Antarctic Peninsula

Region: Antarctica

Destinations: South Georgia

Name: Grey-headed Albatross, Grey-headed Mollymawk (Thalassarche chrysostoma)

Length: 80 cm.

Weight: 3 to 4.5 kg.

Location: Circumpolar across the southern oceans.

Conservation status: Endangered.

Diet: Squid, fish, crustaceans, carrion, cephalopods, lampreys.

Appearance: White body and chest. Light grey head, back, and tail feathers. Dark grey wings. White crest under the eye. Black bill with a golden outline along the top and bottom, hooking into a pinkish tip. White underwings with black forward edge.

How do Grey-headed Albatrosses feed?

Grey-headed Albatrosses generally feed in the open ocean (as opposed to over continental shelves). While they prefer to pluck food from just under the water’s surface they can also, on occasion, dive as deep as 7 metres.


They will fly long distances to feed, even during breeding season, sometimes making trips as long as 13,000 km.

Are Grey-headed Albatrosses social?

Grey-headed Albatrosses tend to be solitary while at sea.

How fast do Grey-headed Albatrosses fly?

Grey-headed Albatrosses can fly at speeds reaching up to 127 km per hour.

What are Grey-headed Albatross birthing rituals like?

Grey-headed Albatrosses create breeding colonies across the islands of the southern Oceans like South Georgia, Islas Diego Ramirez, Kerguelen Islands, and so on.


The cone-shaped nests are built on cliffs or steep slopes with grass and mud. A single egg is laid around the middle of October. The incubation period lasts about 70 days, the incubation duties mainly performed by the male. A successful breeding pair of adults will skip the next year’s season, returning the following year after that to breed again.


The chicks fledge about 41/2  months after hatching. They will become fully pelagic (live entirely at sea) for the first 6 or 7 years of their lives before finally returning to the breeding colonies. Even so, they may not actually breed for several more years after that.

How long do Grey-headed Albatrosses live?

Grey-headed Albatrosses live about 35 years.

How many Grey-headed Albatrosses are there today?

There are an estimated 250,000 Grey-headed Albatrosses in the world (2004 numbers).

Do Grey-headed Albatrosses have any natural predators?

Grey-headed Albatrosses don’t really have any natural predators due to the remoteness of their breeding grounds. The main threat to their numbers comes from food availability; in particular how far they have to fly to get food during the breeding season.

7 Great Grey-headed Albatross Facts

  • Grey-headed Albatrosses nest further south than any other mollymawk.
  • Chrysostoma comes from two Greek words khrusos meaning “gold” and stoma meaning “the mouth”, referring to the birds’ bills.
  • Unlike most other types of Albatross, the Grey-headed Albatross tends not to follow fishing vessels.
  • The Guinness World Records stated that the Grey-headed Albatross is likely the world’s fastest horizontal flyer.
  • Albatrosses don’t have hind toes – they don’t need them since they live at sea.
  • Albatrosses spend the majority of their lives in the air.
  • A Grey-headed Albatross can circumnavigate the globe in just a little over a month.   

Love this article? Share your appreciation:

Related cruises

Weddell Sea - In search of the Emperor Penguin incl. helicopters
Up to 4300 USD discount

Weddell Sea - In search of the Emperor Penguin incl. helicopters

Searching for the Elusive Emperor Penguins

OTL22A-17. A true expedition, our Weddell Sea cruise sets out to explore the range of the Emperor Penguins near Snow Hill Island. We will visit the area via helicopter and see a variety of other birds and penguins including Adélies and Gentoos.

Cruise date:

15 Nov - 25 Nov, 2017

Price:

13550 USD 9250 USD 4300 USD discount

Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctic Peninsula
Up to 3600 USD discount

Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctic Peninsula

Meet at least six penguin species

PLA23-17. This Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Antarctic Peninsula cruise is an animal-lover’s dream come true. The expedition explores one of the last untamed areas on Earth – a land of ruggedly beautiful landscapes and amazingly varied wildlife.

Cruise date:

29 Nov - 18 Dec, 2017

Price:

15750 USD 12150 USD 3600 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp Ortelius
Up to 1800 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp Ortelius

The best activity voyage in Antarctica

OTL21-17. The 12-day Antarctic Peninsula Basecamp Ortelius cruise offers you a myriad of ways to explore and enjoy the Antarctic Region. This expedition allows you to hike, snowshoe, kayak, go mountaineering, and even camp out under the Southern Polar skies.

Cruise date:

4 Nov - 15 Nov, 2017

Price:

on request

Antarctic Peninsula with South Shetland Islands
Up to 1750 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula with South Shetland Islands

Classic Antarctica including Deception Island

OTL24-17. This 11-day Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands cruise delivers you into a landscape of dark rugged rock, pure white snow, and a fantastic variety of wildlife. Come say hello to whales, seals, and thousands of penguins.

Cruise date:

6 Dec - 16 Dec, 2017

Price:

8800 USD 7050 USD 1750 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp Ortelius
Up to 1025 USD discount

Antarctic Peninsula - Basecamp Ortelius

The best activity voyage in Antarctica

OTL23A-17. The 12-day Antarctic Peninsula Basecamp Ortelius cruise offers you a myriad of ways to explore and enjoy the Antarctic Region. This expedition allows you to hike, snowshoe, kayak, go mountaineering, and even camp out under the Southern Polar skies.

Cruise date:

25 Nov - 6 Dec, 2017

Price:

10250 USD 9225 USD 1025 USD discount