Historical information

The Sooty Albatross can be located on islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. It is a colonial bird with colonies consisting of 50 to 60 pairs of birds. These birds will build nests on cliffs and steep slopes. The diet of the Sooty Albatross includes squid, crustaceans, cephalopods, fish and carrion. They are considered an endangered species by the IUCN with a population shrinkage of over 75% over the last 90 years. In the 21st century, the population of this Albatross has seen stability on Gough Island. Interestingly, this species have several features which make them unique. They have nasal passages attached to their upper bill called naricorns and can produce a stomach oil which is stored by the bird and used against predators as well as being food for their chicks. These birds also have a salt gland which helps desalinate their bodies after residing in salt water.

This specimen is part of a collection of almost 200 animal specimens that were originally acquired as skins from various institutions across Australia, including the Australian Museum in Sydney and the National Museum of Victoria (known as Museums Victoria since 1983), as well as individuals such as amateur anthropologist Reynell Eveleigh Johns between 1860-1880. These skins were then mounted by members of the Burke Museum Committee and put-on display in the formal space of the Museum’s original exhibition hall where they continue to be on display. This display of taxidermy mounts initially served to instruct visitors to the Burke Museum of the natural world around them, today it serves as an insight into the collecting habits of the 19th century.


This specimen is part of a significant and rare taxidermy mount collection in the Burke Museum. This collection is scientifically and culturally important for reminding us of how science continues to shape our understanding of the modern world. They demonstrate a capacity to hold evidence of how Australia’s fauna history existed in the past and are potentially important for future environmental research.

This collection continues to be on display in the Museum and has become a key part to interpreting the collecting habits of the 19th century.

Physical description

This Sooty Albatross specimen is of medium size and mainly a sooty-brown plumage. The colouring around the sides of the head and the base of the tail is dark. It has a dark bill which is medium in size and has been stylized with glass eyes by the taxidermist. The tail is a wide diamond-shape and the feet are webbed. This specimen has been placed on a wooden mount and has a small paper identification tag tied to its right leg.

Inscriptions & markings

Sooty Albatross / 13D / Catalogue Page 49 /