Any of more than a dozen species of large seabirds (family Diomedeidae). Albatrosses are among the most spectacular gliders of all birds; in windy weather they can stay aloft for hours without flapping their wings. They drink seawater and usually eat squid. Albatrosses come ashore only to breed, in colonies typically established on remote oceanic islands. Adults of common species attain wingspans of 7–11 ft (200–350 cm). Albatrosses live long and may be among the few birds to die of old age. They were once held in awe by seamen, who held that killing one would bring bad luck.
Learn more about albatross with a free trial on Britannica.com.
The mollymawks are a group of medium sized albatrosses that form the genus Thalassarche. The name has sometimes been used for the genus Phoebetria as well, but these are correctly called sooty albatrosses. They are restricted to the Southern Hemisphere, where they are the most common of the albatrosses. They were long considered to be in the same genus as the great albatrosses, Diomedea, but a study of their mitochondrial DNA showed that they are a monophyletic taxon related to the sooty albatrosses, and they were placed in their own genus.
Mollymawks have what has been described as gull-like plumage, with dark black backs, mantle and tails and lighter heads, underwings and bellies. The heads of several species are often slightly darker grey, or have dark around the eyes. The bills of mollymawks are either brightly coloured orange or yellow, or dark with several bright yellow lines.
The name mollymawk was coined in the 17th century from the German rendering of the Dutch Mallemugge, which meant mal - follish and mok - gull.
Genus Thalassarche - mollymawks