Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes)
The Black-footed Albatross is the most common albatross off the California coast. (We saw ~30 individuals near Cordell Bank on 2 September 2012.)
They're generally dark brown overall, with white at the base of the bill and a small white spot below and behind the eye. (Adults also have white at the base of the tail.) This white coloration becomes more extensive with age.
Here's a view from head-on. Wingspan is ~2 meters (6.5 feet).
Along with the plumage, the bill and the feet are also dark. Look for the feet extending beyond the tail in the photo below. You can also see the white shafts of the outer primaries (outermost wing feathers).
Most Black-footed Albatrosses nest in the Hawaiian Islands. After breeding, they range throughout the North Pacific as far north as Alaska. In California, they're most common during the summer months (June-August).
Here's a view of two individuals from last October — in very different sea conditions and lighting. Note that the bills can be dusky gray/pink.
I hope you've enjoyed Pelagic Week!