polartours header c
Wandering Albatross

Wandering Albatross

The most iconic seabird, with a wingspan over 10ft!

What you need to know about the Wandering Albatross

Our Expert Says… "These birds take a full year to breed, so as the chicks fledge in November, other adults are just starting to nest. Because of this, they don't breed every year. Thanks to restrictions on long-lining it does look like this is making a difference in reducing albatross deaths."

Perhaps the most iconic of any bird? The Wandering Albatross has the longest wingspan of any living bird, with an average of 3m (10ft) and the largest-ever officially recorded being over 3.6m (12ft)! This huge span means they can glide across the ocean for many hours at a time without having to flap their wings, saving energy and allowing them to range across all of the southern oceans.

They are sometimes known as the snowy albatross or the white-winged albatross due to their white body feathers as adults, although young wandering albatross are dark brown until they mature. They have a distinctive pink bill and pink feet to match.

There is an important breeding colony in South Georgia, where more than 10% of the world's population of Wandering Albatross come to breed in early November. This albatross mates for life and together pairs raise a single chick every 2 years. Both parents share incubation and chick feeding duties.

These remarkable birds are classed as vulnerable, and their population is in decline due to pollution and fishing practices.

Wandering Albatross: Pictures & Videos

Wandering Albatross

Spots where the Wandering Albatross can be observed

prion island
Prion Island

Prion Island, like many places in the Antarctic, was named after what was first seen there. In this case, during an expedition of 1912, the island was named because the naturalist Robert Cushman Murphy noted the large numbers of prions he found here.

The prion is a small petrel also sometimes known as a whalebird, and they get their unusual name because of their saw-tooth bill - the word prion in greek means “saw”.

Prion Island sits in the 9-mile-wide Bay of Isles off the northern coast of South Georgia. It is only 1.5 miles in length but it has been designated a Specially Protected Area in its entirety. Because it has always been rat-free, birds can raise their young here without fear of their nests being raided by non-native scavengers. Because of the need to protect the wildlife, there are strict restrictions on visitor numbers, and only 50 people per day are allowed ashore during the season when Prion Island is open to visitors, so guests are often split between going ashore, doing a really good Zodiac cruise, and sometimes with being onboard ship. You’ll also find that your naturalist guides will ensure that no one is carrying anything on to the island that could harbor an invasive species.

To protect the native flora and to avoid damage to petrel and prion burrows, the South Georgia authorities have built a boardwalk, and you will be required to stay on it at all times during your visit. Don’t worry, though, as the animals seem to have decided that they enjoy using it too and nest and feed right up to its edge, so you’ll have plenty of close encounters!

Another important species that breeds here is the wandering albatross. Indeed, Prion Island is such an important breeding center for them that the whole island is closed to visitors between 20th November and 7th January each year to allow them to pair off without disturbance. This time also coincides with the breeding season for Antarctic fur seals who also benefit from the seclusion.

Other species you can find on Prion Island include South Georgia Pipits and South Georgia Pintails, snowy sheathbills, skuas, Antarctic terns, and gentoo penguins.

Our trips to spot the Wandering Albatross

2024 Polartours, a Ventura TRAVEL GmbH brand

All rights reserved

Polar Specialist

Your contact


Book a video consultation

15min face to face consultation

Polar Specialist