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Diomedea sanfordi (Northern royal albatross) 

Swartvlerkkoningalbatros [Afrikaans]; Swartvlerkkoningmalmok [Afrikaans]; Albatros royal du Nord [French]

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

Diomedea sanfordi (Northern royal albatross)  Diomedea sanfordi (Northern royal albatross) 
Northern royal albatross, offshore from Cape Town, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ] Northern royal albatross, offshore from Cape Town, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds on islands off the coast of New Zealand, dispersing in the non-breeding season to the waters surrounding South America. It is generally scarce in southern African waters, while most common over the continental shelf edge between the Orange River, Northern Cape and Cape Agulhas, Western Cape but also rarely occurring further south.

Movements and migrations

Arrives at its breeding colonies in October, breeding before dispersing about a year later across the southern oceans.


The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • squid
    • Moroteuthopsis ingens
    • Histioteuthis atlantica
  • fish
  • crustaceans
  • tunicates
  • scavenged penguin carcasses


Breeds in dense colonies on small rocky islets (Chatham Island) or vegetated slopes (Taiaroa Head), laying its eggs in late October and November. The chicks hatch in the period from January-February, fledging in September and October.


Endangered, due to low breeding success at Chatham Island, New Zealand, largely as a result of a severe storms in 1985 which washed away vegetation and soil, forcing birds to breed on bare rock or build nests of stone. This causes egg breakage, high egg temperatures and nest flooding. It also has a colony at Taiaroa Head, New Zealand, where it has been negatively impacted by blowflies and introduced predators, however intensive conservation work have thankfully enhanced the breeding success of birds there.


  • 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.