The Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross
, Thalassarche carteri
, is the smallest and arguably one of the most handsome of the black and white albatrosses, compensating for its relatively diminutive proportions with excellent in-flight agility.
The species is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The bird scavenges for food from fishing vessels and steals prey from other sea-birds. It plunges into the sea to catch prey driven to the surface by tuna and other game fish. Long line fishing is a great danger to them. They dive for the bait before the hooks have sunk and if they are caught by a baited hook they drown. Setting the nets at night and weighting them to facilitate more rapid sinking are some of the measures being tried in an attempt to reduce the number of seabird fatalities. Collisions with cables on vessels also accounts for a number of deaths.
Like all other albatrosses, pairs mate for life. Indian Yellow-noses breed on Prince Edward, the Crozets, Amsterdam and St Paul islands in the southern Indian Ocean.
Until recently, these birds were lumped as one species with their Atlantic Ocean cousin, T. chlororhynchos
, but the two differ in size, head colour and bill structure. Both species are regular visitors to African waters, with a broad area of overlap in their ranges off South Africa. Adults of the two species are fairly reliably separated at sea: the Atlantic birds have a grey wash over the entire head and neck; in the Indian birds, this is con-fined to the cheeks. At close range, they can also be distinguished by the shape of the yellow culminicorn stripe at the base of the bill: rounded in Atlantic birds and pointed in Indian. Juveniles and young immatures are more difficult to tell apart, because their bills are all black and they have largely white heads and necks.