Skip to Content

Tiny Cameras Capture Albatross’s Feeding Secrets

New footage suggests the birds follow killer whales.
October 6, 2009

Tiny cameras mounted to the backs of black-browed albatrosses show that the animals, which hunt out at sea, may forage by following killer whales. The findings are just one example of a growing body of research using miniaturized cameras to reveal how animals behave in their natural environment. In this study, more than 28,000 pictures were taken from cameras on three albatrosses. The animals were tagged at a breeding colony on Bird Island, South Georgia earlier this year.

A small camera mounted on an albatross shows the birds
interacting with a killer whale.
Credit: National Institute of Polar Research, Japan

According to a press release from the journal PLoS ONE, which published the research:

The amazing pictures reveal albatrosses foraging in groups while at sea collecting food for their chicks. It also provides the first observation of an albatross feeding with a killer whale - a strategy they may adopt for efficiency.

The camera, developed by the National Institute for Polar Research in Tokyo, is removed when the albatross returns to its breeding ground after foraging trips. It is small (the size of a lipstick) and weighs 82g. Although the camera slightly changes the aerodynamic shape of the albatross, it didn’t affect the breeding success of the study birds.

Dr Richard Phillips from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) says, “These images are really interesting. They show us that albatrosses associate with marine mammals in the same way as tropical seabirds often do with tuna. In both cases the prey (usually fish) are directed to the surface and then it’s easy hunting for the birds.”

One of the birds flies past an iceberg.
Credit: National Institute of Polar Research, Japan.
This image shows the birds feeding together.
Credit: National Institute of Polar Research, Japan

For other animal insights caught on camera, check out:

Penguin-Recognition Software

Seals Gather New Ocean Data

Keep Reading

Most Popular

still from Embodied Intelligence video
still from Embodied Intelligence video

These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems

They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.

pig kidney transplant surgery
pig kidney transplant surgery

Surgeons have successfully tested a pig’s kidney in a human patient

The test, in a brain-dead patient, was very short but represents a milestone in the long quest to use animal organs in human transplants.

conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned
conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.

thermal image of young woman wearing mask
thermal image of young woman wearing mask

The covid tech that is intimately tied to China’s surveillance state

Heat-sensing cameras and face recognition systems may help fight covid-19—but they also make us complicit in the high-tech oppression of Uyghurs.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.