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New Zealand reports on breeding studies on the Flesh-footed Shearwater, a potential candidate for ACAP listing

Patrick Crowe and Mike Bell (Wildlife Management International, Blenheim, New Zealand) have presented a report on their research conducted on globally Near Threatened and Nationally Vulnerable Flesh-footed Shearwaters Ardenna carnepeis to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) at a meeting of its Conservation Services Programme (CSP) Technical Working Group on 17 July this year (click here).

Flesh-footed Shearwaters, photograph by Ian Hatton

The report’s Executive Summary follows:

“This report covers the population monitoring of flesh-footed shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) on Ohinau and Lady Alice Islands carried out under Conservation Services Programme project POP2018-04. It also covers two flesh-footed shearwater population estimates: Lady Alice Island and Motumahanga Island.

During the 2018/19 season we monitored 247 and 264 study burrows on Ohinau and Lady Alice Island respectively. The breeding success on Ohinau Island was 62%, down from 68% in the previous season. Breeding success on Lady Alice Island remained consistently low at 52%. There was no significant difference in breeding success between the two islands. Burrowscope (control) burrows, had a higher measured breeding success on both islands, however, the difference was again not statistically significant. We were able to identify both partners in 81% of burrows on Ohinau Island and 95% of burrows on Lady Alice Island. An additional 868 flesh-footed shearwaters were banded over both islands this season, including 453 chicks banded on Ohinau Island alone.

Burrow transects were carried out on Lady Alice Island to gather data for an updated population estimate for the island. 371 transects, each covering 40m², were completed within nine different colonies on the island. Occupancy rates varied greatly between colonies with the majority of flesh-footed shearwaters occupying burrows in colonies on the northern side of the island. Colonies to the east, west and south were either mixed-species colonies, or primarily grey-faced petrel colonies. We estimate that there are a total of 3217 occupied burrows (2180 – 4255, 95% CI) on Lady Alice Island.

A complete survey of burrows on Motumahanga Island revealed a total of 562 burrows occupied by flesh-footed shearwaters. This represents a significant increase from the 1989/90 estimate of just 100 burrows.”

The CSP monitors the impact of commercial fishing on protected species, studies species populations and looks at ways to limit bycatch.  The programme is funded by levies from commercial fishers.

New Zealand has announced it is giving consideration to nominating the Flesh-footed Shearwater to the Agreement (click here).


Crowe, P. & Bell, M. 2019.  Flesh-footed Shearwater Population Monitoring and Estimates: 2018/19 Season.  Blenheim: Wildlife Management International Ltd.  32 pp.

Earlier annual reports on this project:

Crowe, P. 2018.  Flesh-footed Shearwater Population Monitoring on Ohinau and Lady Alice Islands, 2017/18 Report.  Blenheim: Wildlife Management International Ltd. 23 pp.

Crowe, P., Bell, M., Kirk, H. & Burgin, D. 2017.  Flesh-footed Shearwater Population Monitoring on Ohinau and Lady Alice Islands, 2016/17 Report.  Blenheim: Wildlife Management International Ltd.  20 pp.

To access more reports to DOC on the Flesh-footed Shearwater in New Zealand click here.

John Cooper ACAP Information Officer, 22 July 2019

Are ACAP-listed Pink-footed Shearwaters at risk to Chilean purse seiners?

Ryan Carle (Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge, Valparaíso, Chile) and colleagues have published in the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications on the overlap between ACAP-listed and globally Vulnerable Pink-footed Shearwaters Ardenna creatopus and Chilean purse-seiners.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Understanding susceptibility of seabirds to fisheries bycatch requires quantifying overlap of seabird at-sea habitat with fisheries’ distribution and effort.  Pink-footed Shearwaters (Ardenna creatopus) are vulnerable seabirds that breed only in Chile.  Recently, high rates of Pink-footed Shearwater bycatch (i.e. >1,500 observed mortalities 2015–2017) were documented by observers in central Chilean purse-seine fisheries.  We present analysis of Pink-footed Shearwater at-sea movements and overlap with central Chilean purse-seine fleets targeting common sardine (Strangomera bentincki), Peruvian anchoveta (Engraulis ringens), and Chilean jack mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus).  To determine overlap during 2015–2017, we paired locations from 49 Pink-footed Shearwaters rearing nestlings at Isla Mocha, Chile, with locations and number of observed purse-seine sets in central Chile.  Pink-footed Shearwaters typically visited waters ≤30 km offshore throughout central Chile.  Foraging trip durations varied interannually, with longer trips in 2016, but all years revealed persistent foraging hotspots near Valdivia, the Gulf of Arauco, and Isla Mocha, Chile.  Greatest overlap between Pink-footed Shearwaters and fisheries occurred with the sardine/anchoveta fleet near Valdivia (artisanal and industrial) and the Gulf of Arauco (artisanal); overlap with the jack mackerel fleet was minimal.  Given Pink-footed Shearwater bycatch documented in these fisheries, this overlap may indicate risk of bycatch for these birds, although we did not directly quantify shearwater–fisheries interaction.  Our results can inform further fishery monitoring efforts, as well as collaboration among scientists, managers, and fishers to identify, quantify, and reduce fisheries bycatch of Pink-footed Shearwaters within Chile and internationally.”

Pibk-footed Shearwater at sea, photograph from Oikonos


Carle, R.D., Felis, J.J., Vega, R., Beck, J., Adams, J., López, V., Hodum, P.J., González, A., Colodro, V. & Varela, T. 2019.  Overlap of Pink-footed Shearwaters and central Chilean purse-seine fisheries: implications for bycatch risk.  The Condor: Ornithological Applications

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 July 2019

Sexual dimorphism and foraging trips of the Laysan Albatross on Guadalupe Island

Julio César Hernández Montoya (Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste, La Paz, Mexico) and colleagues have published open access in the journal Animals on aspects of the biology of Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis breeding on Mexico’s Guadalupe Island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Sexual dimorphism in the Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) on Guadalupe Island was evaluated during the breeding seasons of 2015–2018 by measuring and comparing 10 morphological attributes: cranial length, bill length, nostril length, cranial width, bill height, bill width, tarsus length, closed wing length, opened wing length, and wingspan length in reproductive adults (n = 135). Males were larger than females across all traits (Student’s t-test, p < 0.05, p < 0.05). We created a logistic model using stepwise regression to predict sex based on morphological variables. This model indicated four significant morphological predictor variables (z < 0.05) and was able to successfully predict the sex of P. immutabilis individuals in more than 90% of the cases. Based on these predictor variables, a web app was developed to determine the sex of the Laysan albatross in the field, providing a non-invasive method for rapid data collection that reduces costs and handling times while improving conservation efforts. We tracked Laysan albatross (n = 36) during breeding seasons and found no significant differences between females and males for either trip length (GLMM, F = 0.017, DF = 1, 1, p = 0.917 > 0.05) or maximum trip distance (GLMM, F = 0.374, DF = 1, 1, p = 0.651 > 0.05). Our results suggest that both sexes show a strong preference to travel to highly productive coastal waters northeast of the breeding colony that are influenced by the California Current. The present research will serve to establish a baseline to protect this species on Guadalupe Island and highlights the importance of understanding sexual dimorphism in at-risk seabird species.”

 Guadalupe Island, with a Laysan Albatross family, photographs by Ross Wanless


Hernández Montoy, J.C., Juárez-Rodríguez, M., Méndez-Sánchez, F., Aguirre-Muñoz, A., Rojas-Mayoral, E., Íñigo-Elias, E., Galina-Tessaro, P., Arnaud, G. & Ortega-Rubio, A. 2019. Sexual dimorphism and foraging trips of the Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) on Guadalupe Island.  Animals 9(6), 364

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 July 2019

Citizen scientists show some albatross and petrel species are declining off south-eastern Australia

Simon Gorta (Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia) and colleagues have published in the journal Biological Conservation on changes over 17 years in numbers of pelagic seabirds off south-eastern Australia, including of nine species of ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Many seabird communities are declining around the world, a trend frequently linked to climate change and human impacts on habitat and prey. Time series observations of seabirds away from breeding colonies are generally rare, which limits our understanding of long-term changes for conservation actions. We analysed a dedicated citizen science dataset of pelagic seabird abundance (86 species-30 used for modelling analysis-from 385 trips) from two locations over 17 years (2000-2016) and a third for seven years, over the continental shelf and slope of southeastern Australia. To estimate temporal trends and environmental drivers, we used generalised additive modelling and species archetype modelling for groups. Almost half (43%) of the most abundant seabird species declined in our study area over the 17 years. The declines may be associated with human-induced ecosystem change and represent poleward shifts in distribution out of our study area, changes in population abundance, or both. Winter-dominant groups, primarily species rarely frequenting warmer water, were often negatively associated with SST anom, while summer-dominant groups, composed of species more tolerant of temperate and tropical environments, were generally positively associated with SST anom. Widespread local declines in seabird populations are of increasing concern. Understanding the extent to which these observed declines represent real declines in abundance, or range shifts, should be a priority. Changing sea temperatures are probably contributing to both. These results from the coast of southeastern Australia need to be placed in the context of the highly mobile study organisms and the vast spatial scale of the ocean. Long-term citizen science observations, from an array of locations around the world, promise to provide valuable insights into seabird ecology, playing a key part in seabird conservation.”

Wandering Albatross at sea, photograph by Kirk Zufelt

With thanks to Simon Gorta.

Read a popular article on the publication.


Gorta, S., Smith, J.A., Everett, J.D., Kingsford, R.T., Cornwell, W.K., Suthers, I., Epstein, H., McGovern, R., McLachlan, G., Roderick, M., Smith, L., Williams, D. & Callaghan, C.T. 2019.  Pelagic citizen science data reveal declines of seabirds off south-eastern Australia.  Biological Conservation 235: 226-235.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 July 2019

Separating Short-tailed, Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters at sea in the North Atlantic

Robert Flood (FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa) and Ashley Fisher have published in the journal British Birds giving criteria to separate three shearwater species at sea; one being the dark-plumaged form of the ACAP-listed and Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Short-tailed Shearwater Ardenna tenuirostris is an abundant species of the Pacific Ocean. We reviewed records for the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and suggest that a regular pattern of movement in these oceans is hitherto unrecognised.  It follows that the vagrancy potential of Short-tailed Shearwater to the North Atlantic probably is greater than suggested by the few documented records.  Short-tailed may have been overlooked or confused with the similar-looking Sooty Shearwater A. grisea and, in the northeast Atlantic, dark-plumaged Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus.  Criteria for the separation of these three species at sea are presented in a bid to establish a clearer picture of the status of Short-tailed Shearwater in the North Atlantic.  Separation of Short-tailed from Sooty Shearwater builds on existing criteria; characters for separation from dark-plumaged Balearic Shearwater are new.”

Short-tailed Shearwater at sea, photograph by Peter Ryan


Flood, R.[K.] & Fisher, A.  2019.  Identification of Short-tailed Shearwater in the North Atlantic Ocean.  British Birds 112: 250-263.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 July 2019

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