Egg formation and the pre-laying period of Black-browed and Grey-headed Albatrosses Diomedea melanophris and D. chrysostoma at Bird Island, South Georgia
Egg composition and factors influencing egg formation were studied in Black‐browed and Grey‐headed Albatrosses Diomedea melanophris and D. chrysostoma at Bird Island, South Georgia. At nests where eggs were laid, females arrived 6–7 days after males, stayed one day during which 96% of observed copulations occurred, then departed to sea for c. 16 days in D. chrysostoma, c. 10 days in D. melanophris, returning c. two days before laying. Yolk deposition, however, lasted 21 and 20 days, and started 32 and 29 days before laying, in D. chrysostoma and D. melanophris respectively. Therefore, it is probably initiated by environmental factors not by copulation. Egg, albumen and yolk mass are significantly greater in D. chrysostoma but the proportionate composition of the species' eggs is nearly identical. Reduced differences in chick mass at hatching may reflect the longer incubation period in D. chrysostoma or relate to subsequent differences in chick growth rate.