The activity patterns of foraging Yellow-nosed Diomedea chlororhynchos, Sooty Phoebetria fusca, Black-browed D. melanophris impavida and Grey-headed Albatross D. chrysostoma were compared using loggers recording the timing of landing and take-offs, as well as the duration of bouts in flight or on the water, and the overall time spent in flight. The four species spent a similar proportion of their foraging time in flight (56–65%). During the day they were mostly flying (77–85% of the daylight period) whereas at night they were mainly (61–71%) sitting on the water. The amount of time spent in flight during the daytime foraging period was related to the amount of time spent sitting on the water at night. Differences between species occurred in the duration of bouts in flight and on the water as well as in the frequency of landings and in the time elapsed between successive landings. Yellow-nosed Albatrosses were more active than the other species, with more frequent short bouts in flight and more frequent successive landings at short intervals. Sooty Albatrosses landed or took-off less often than the other species and were more active just before dusk. Black-browed and Grey-headed Albatrosses were more active at night, especially the first part of the night and far from the colonies. Their trips consisted of a commuting part and a foraging part. Black-browed Albatrosses landed more often during the foraging than the commuting part, suggesting that they were not searching when travelling. The study suggests that there is no fundamental difference between the overall activity budgets of the four species although they show distinctive diet, morphology and life history traits. The differences observed between the four species were related mainly to differences in foraging technique. Comparison with the Wandering Albatross, the only species for which data were available previously, suggest that this larger species might differ completely in foraging technique from the smaller albatrosses.