Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Laysan Albatross

Phoebastria immutabilis


Fun Facts

    The wings of a laysan albatross are adapted to lock open into a wingspan of nearly seven feet.

    Ranging widely across the North Pacific, albatrosses hunt primarily at night.




The laysan albatross is a large, long-winged seabird. Its wings are gray above with a varying degree of dark mixed with white below. The tail is dark, and the head, belly, and rump are all white. The face is distinctive, with a dark area around the eye and a large pale-pinkish bill. The laysan albatross does not breed until they are 8-9 years old and can live over 40 years.


During the breeding season, they prefer open sand or grassy areas, on low, flat islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. During the non-breeding season, the laysan albatross lives over the open ocean, far from land, off the California coast in search of squid, fish, fish eggs and crustaceans.  They can fly 6,000 miles across the open ocean in search of food. Laysan albatrosses are most often found beyond the continental shelf, mostly in cold water. They are restricted to the Northern Hemisphere, unlike the majority of albatrosses, which are found in the Southern Hemisphere.

Unfortunately, pollution and human impacts have affected albatross populations.  Albatrosses drown as bycatch in commercial fisheries, are exposed to pollutants that have bioaccumulated in their prey, and they fill their stomachs with plastic debris mistaken for food.  Over 300 plastic items have been found inside a single dead albatross chick.  These meals of plastic toys, lighters and bottle tops are fed to chicks by well-intentioned parents who, like many of us, have a difficult time discerning junk from food.  All of these dangers and distractions add to the challenge of traveling across vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean to procure a meal for a hungry chick.

To learn more about the Laysan Albatross and their relatives visit the Seabirds & Pinnipeds Room at the Aquarium.