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Scientific classification
Family: Diomedeidae
Phoebastria albatrus
Phoebastria nigripes
Phoebastria irrorata
Phoebastria immutabilis
Diomedea epomophora
Diomedea exulans
Diomedea amsterdamensis
Thallasarche chlororhynchos
Thallasarche melanophris
Thallasarche chrysostoma
Thallasarche bulleri
Thallasarche cauta
Phoebetria fusca
Phoebetria palpebrata

The albatrosses (from Portuguese Alcatraz, a pelican) are seabirds in the family Diomedeidae, which is closely allied to the petrels.

This is a group of large to very large birds with very long narrow wings. The beak is large, strong and sharp-edged, the upper mandible terminating in a large hook. The feet have no hind toe, and the three anterior toes are completely webbed.

Albatrosses travel huge distances using a technique used by many long-winged seabirds called dynamic soaring. This enables them to minimise the effort needed by gliding across wave fronts.

Their principal food is cephalopods.

Current thinking divides the albatrosses into four genera:

The taxonomy of the albatross group is very fluid at the present time. The American Ornithological Union places seabirds, birds of prey and many others in a greatly enlarged order Ciconiiformes, whereas in Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the more traditional Procellariiformes is retained.

Both the British Ornithologists' Union and the South African authorities split the albatrosses into four genera as indicated in the table. (Ibis (2002) 144 p707-710.)

The name Diomedea, assigned to the albatrosses by Linnaeus references the mythical metamorphosis of the companions of the Greek warrior Diomedes into birds.

Black-browed Albatross.

Black-browed Albatross.