Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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Read about recent developments and findings in procellariiform science and conservation relevant to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels in ACAP Latest News.

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A WAD2020 banner gets to Grey-headed Albatross Ridge on Marion Island

Back in October last year doctoral student Stefan Schoombie with fellow researchers on South Africa’s Marion Island in the southern Indian Ocean took their home-made World Albatross Day banner to Ship’s Cove to display next to some breeding Sooty Albatrosses Phoebetria fusca (click here).

Recently Stefan with his wife Janine walked from the research station where they stay to Grey-headed Albatross Ridge in the south of the island.  From my own experience this trek can take up to a full day, over mostly difficult and hilly terrain – and often in poor weather.  Carrying their original WAD2020 banner made from a black-out curtain and its poles all the way is not going to be appealing.  No matter, there is a field hut next to the ridge and the Schoombies used what materials were available there to make a banner to display next to a colony of Grey-headed Albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma on the ridge.

Marion GHA2.Stefan SchoombieMarion GHA2.Stefan Schoombie

Making the WAD2020 banner in the field hut at Grey-headed Albatross Ridge

Marion GHA4.Stefan Schoombie

Stefan and Janine Schoombie display their new World Albatross Day banner next to a small group of breeding Grey-headed Albatrosses on Marion Island

Immediately below the ridge is the partially vegetated tumbled lava of Santa Rosa Valley.  Grey-headed Albatrosses, including fledglings, occasionally crash land in the lava field and may not then be able to fly out, leading to their death.  While Stefan is studying mainly Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans through the University of Cape Town for his PhD, Janine’s research is with the University of Pretoria’s Department of Plant and Soil Science.  She writes to ACAP Latest News: “The project we are working on looks at the effect of wind on the terrestrial ecology of the island.  My research on the Grey-headed Albatrosses focuses on finding out how the wind influences their flight capabilities around Grey-headed Albatross Ridge and how changes in wind patterns (as a consequence of climate change) might affect them in the future.”  Best wishes for her and Stefan’s research!

Grey Headed Albatross Hut Black browed Albatross Michelle Jones

The field hut from Grey-headed Albatross Ridge on Marion Island. The tumbled black lava below it can trap fledging abatrosses.

  The Black-browed Albatross depicted is a regular vagant among the Grey-headed Albatrosses (click here). Photograph by Michelle Risi

With thanks to Janine and Stefan Schoombie.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 January 2019

Taiaroa Head’s Northern Royal Albatrosses finish laying and get their Royal Cam back

Thirty-six eggs were laid in the current (2019/20) breeding season of globally Endangered Northern Royal Albatrosses Diomedea sanfordi in New Zealand’s only mainland albatross colony of Taiaroa Head, following a final count by Department of Conservation (DOC) staff late last year.  This is less than the previous season’s 51-egg record.

“However, that [record] was a result of re-breeding by the parents of failed eggs the previous season when extreme weather conditions resulted in a higher-than-usual number of failed nests.  That season only 13 chicks fledged compared with 26 and 23 chicks over the previous two years.”  The latest egg count of 36 is thus considered to “show a return to normal after two years of extremes”.

DOC has also reinstalled its live-streaming ‘Royal Cam’: “The season of 2019/2020 has seen the Royal Cam once again move up the hill.  Now at Top Flat Track our new pair is OGK (banded Orange, Green, Black) a 21-year old male and YRK (banded Yellow, Red, Black) a 25-year old female.  YRK laid the egg on 14 November 2019.  This season the live stream has partnered with Cornell Bird Lab.  There are some new features including a trial of night vision and the ability to pan the camera at the ranger’s discretion.”

Watch the Royal Cam here.

Northern Royal Albatross Taiaroa Head egg Nov2016

A colour-banded Northern Royal Albatross stands over it egg on Taiaroa Head

With thanks to Sharyn Broni, Ranger, Biodiversity, New Zealand Department of Conservation.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 January 2020

Rising to the challenge: Steeple Jason in the South Atlantic gets a World Albatross Day banner

Steeple Jason is the second largest island in the Jason Islands Group, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.  The uninhabited island, a private nature reserve since 1970 that is owned by the Wildlife Conservation Society, supports breeding populations of two ACAP-listed species: Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris and Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus.  The island supports the largest colony of the former species in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.

Back in November last year Falklands Conservation (BirdLife partner) travelled to Steeple Jason as part of the Falkland Islands Seabird Monitoring Programme (FISMP) to survey breeding albatrosses and penguins.  Equipped with a home-made World Albatross Day banner (and the novelty of a drone) the team obtained some great photos from the edge of an albatross colony.

WAD Falklands SteepleJason Banner 01

From left: Sarah Crofts, Megan Tierney and Peter Wessels

WAD Falklands SteepleJason Banner 02

WAD Falklands SteepleJason Banner 03

The above two photos by drone: the albatrosses appear to take no notice

WAD Falklands Steeple Prep 10 shrunk

Sarah Crtofts works on the banner destined for Steeple Jason

Before the field trip Conservation Officer Sarah Crofts wrote to ACAP Latest News: “World Albatross Day brings awareness of the global conservation plight of these extraordinarily long-lived ocean navigators.  It also celebrates the efforts achieved by scientists, conservationists, governments and industry working together to sustain albatross populations into the future". 

Steeple Jason is the ninth albatross island to be part of the ‘WAD2020 Banner Challenge’, and the first for the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.  More islands are expected to be added to the list, hopefully also including several in the northern Hemisphere.  If a few more islands are included it is intended to make a poster of the banner photos in time for World Albatross Day on 19 June that will be freely available for downloading.

With thanks to Sarah Crofts and Peter Wessels, Falklands Conservation and Megan Tierney, Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 06 January 2019

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

Artists & Biologists Unite for Nature and ACAP collaborate over this year’s World Albatross Day

ACAP is particularly pleased to be able to collaborate with ABUN (Artists & Biologists Unite for Nature) with its 30th Project that will lead to the creation of a World Albatross Day banner to help illustrate the conservation crisis that continues to be faced by the world’s 22 species of albatrosses.  The involvement of nature and wildlife artists in this way will enable the general public to become more aware of the problem and thus be able to lend their support to helping save these majestic birds.


Artists & Biologists Unite for Nature was founded by Brazilian-based Kitty Harvill and Christoph Hrdina in 2016.  ABUN is a collection of nature and wildlife artists, serving the conservation community with their images for use in promoting awareness.  “We range from beginners and hobby artists, children and adults to seasoned professionals, joined together by our love of nature and desire to be of service to that cause, the process of creating art and the respect for all artistic expressions produced in the group.”

Kitty writes enthusiastically on ABUN’s Facebook page on the first day of the new year: “ABUN #30 - WORLD ALBATROSS DAY is 'Live'.  With all 22 species we will be bringing you a species every few days to give you more information regarding details such as specific traits, range, etc.  Enjoy this wonderful project - let's UNITE to give ACAP some beautiful artwork to use in their celebration this 19 June for the FIRST World Albatross Day!!”

Artists wishing to contribute to ABUN #30 have until 29 February to submit their artwork for posting.  ACAP has supplied over 130 photographs featuring all 22 species to the ABUN album that artists can use as inspiration (although they may produce their art from other photos, or from direct observation or their imagination).  There is no limit to the number of paintings each artist may submit, although each artist will be limited to a maximum of four images on the World Albatross Day banner that ABUN will create for ACAP’s use after the project ends in two months’ time.  A bonus is that the artists give the right to ACAP to use the images of their paintings as educational and marketing material once they have been posted.

The thousand ABUN members are clearly an enthusiastic lot.  In less than 48 hours of launching the project, three of them have already submitted their artwork - as illustrated here along with the ACAP photos that inspired them.  Pleasing also to note is the friendly way they interact online encouraging each other.  ACAP’S Information Officer is looking forward to working with ABUN over the next two months – he expects to be kept busy!

Black browed Albatross from Oli Yates photo by Sue DuVallBlack browed Albatross Beauchene Island November 2005 Oli Yates shrunk

 Oli Yates photographed this Black-browed Albatross on Beauchene Island (right) in the South Atlantic in November 2005; Arkansas-based Sue DuVall made the painting (left)

Grey headed Albatross Stefan Schoombie by Lea FinkeGHA flattened pseudo

ABUN artist Lea Finke has painted this globally Endangered Grey-headed Albatross that was photographed on its pedestal nest on Marion Island by PhD student Stefan Schoombie

Read more about how ABUN works here.

Kitty Harvill has featured in ACAP Latest News before.  She is the illustrator of the children’s book on Wisdom, the female Laysan Albatross who is  the world’s oldest known bird (see ALN’s review), still going strong at an estimated 69 years of age.

With grateful thanks to Kitty Harvill, all the ABUN artists and to all the many photographers who have generously allowed their work to be used by ACAP in the service of albatross conservation. You may well get a painting by an ABUN artist to go with your photo!

 Short tailed Albatross Georgia Feild

This pencil drawing of a globally Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatross for ABUN#30 is by Georgia Feild from the USA

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 January 2020


A long way from home: a Northern Giant Petrel gets photographed in the North Pacific

A Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli was photographed off the coast of Washington, USA in the North Pacific on 8 December 2019 from the vessel Pacific Hustler while it was fishing for Black Cod or Sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria.  The bird can be identified specifically by the reddish tip to its bill.  Based on its rather uniform dark plumage it does not appear to be an adult.

Northern Giant Petrels breed on sub-Antarctic islands in the Southern Ocean with a circumpolar oceanic distribution recorded north to 25-28ºS, so the photographed bird was indeed a long way from home.

Northern Giant Petrel Washington 8.12.2019.Zed Blue 2 

Northern Giant Petrel Washington 8.12.2019.Zed Blue 3

The Northern Giant Petrel along with Black-footed Albatrosses Phoebastria nigripes and dark-phase Arctic Fulmars Fulmarus glacialis, photograph by Zed Blue

Checking my home library it seems this may be the first definite trans-equatorial record of a Northern Giant Petrel (although a Southern Giant Petrel M. giganteus has been sighted north of the Equator in the Atlantic).

Information from the Western Washington Birders.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 January 2020

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