Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP Latest News

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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Burrow competition among Great-winged, Grey and White-chinned Petrels at Marion Island

Ben Dilley (FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa) and colleagues have published in the journal Ardea on three species of burrowing petrels at Marion Island competing for burrows, including two ACAP-listed Procellaria petrels.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Competition for nest sites is relatively common amongst burrow-nesting Procellariiformes, especially on some sub-Antarctic islands where there is limited availability of good burrow-nesting habitat. Where space is limited, petrels may even successfully share a common burrow entrance or nest chamber and burrow densities can reach >7000 burrows/ha. Interspecies burrow competition and chick evictions generally occur as a result of an overlap in breeding seasons, yet there are few documented records of this behaviour and even within study colonies many evictions are unconfirmed or probably go undetected. Here we report on interactions among three burrow-nesting petrels (White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis, Grey Petrels P. cinerea and Great-winged Petrels Pterodroma macroptera) at Marion Island which we observed through regular nest checks with a burrowscope and using infra-red video cameras inside burrow chambers. Despite relatively low petrel densities, White-chinned Petrels were responsible for 17% (8/46) of the Great-winged Petrel chick mortalities over the five breeding seasons (3% of the breeding attempts), but two were also recorded feeding Great-winged Petrel chicks. A pair of White-chinned Petrels evicted a Grey Petrel chick, but then had their own chick killed by Grey Petrels the following season, who went on to breed successfully in the same burrow. Feral Cats Felis catus were eradicated in 1991 and the greatly reduced petrel populations are slowly recovering, which could exacerbate competition for burrows on Marion.”

White-chinned Petrel with a 97-day old Great-winged Petrel chick it had killed, photograph by Ben Dilley

 Supplementary video at of a White-chinned Petrel kiling a 30-day old Great-winged Petrel chick.

With thanks to Ben Dilley.


Dilley, B.J., Davies, D., Stevens, K., Schoombie, S., Schoombie, J. & Ryan, P.G. 2019.  Burrow wars and sinister behaviour among burrow-nesting petrels at sub-Antarctic Marion Island.  Ardea 107: 97-102.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 May 2019

ACAP rounds out two weeks of meetings in Brazil with an outing and a report adoption

After two weeks of meetings in the neighbourhood of Jurerê Internacional, Santa Caterina Island, Brazil, the Eleventh Meeting of the Advisory Committee (AC11) completed its work with the adoption of its report last Friday – preceded by a sea trip to two island fortresses that date back to the 18th Century.

In the first week the Population and Conservation Status (PaCSWG5) and Seabird Bycatch (SBWG9) Working Groups met separately for a total of five days of discussions.  The reports of these two meetings were then presented to AC11 by their Co convenors for consideration and are now publicly available on this website (see AC11 Docs 9 & 10).

The AC11 report will now undergo copy-editing by the Secretariat in Hobart and then be circulated to ACAP Parties for final approval, from when it will also be publicly available on this website, at which time ACAP Latest News will summarize its main achievements.

Closing AC11 and preparing for a Hobart winter:  ACAP's Information Officer presents the last "A-beanie" left over from AC4 held in South Africa in 2008

to Christine Bogel, ACAP's third Executive Secretary

The day before report adoption, 21 attendees of ACAP’s 2019 meetings in Brazil went on a day-long sea trip from the Centro district of the island city of Floreanópolis into the 4400-ha Anhatomirim Environmental Protection Area (AEPA), visiting the Brazilian mainland for a help-yourself buffet at the sea’s edge and then made landings on two small islands in Baie Norte that are home to small fortresses built in the mid-18th Century.  Although no dolphins were seen, a particular aim of the excursion (click here), Magnificent Frigatebirds Fregata magnificens flying overhead and roosting on palm trees as well as Capybaras Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris (the largest living rodent) acting as lawn mowers around the Fortaleza de Santa Cruz on Ilha de Anhatomirim and Fortaleza de Santo Antônio on Ilha de Ratones Grande were highlights of an enjoyable day. The two island fortresses are part of a suite of 19 coastal fortresses (“Brazilian Fortresses Ensemble”) which was placed on Brazil's Tentative List for World Heritage status in 2015.

Fortaleza de Santa Cruz

Richard Phillips, Co-convenor, Population and Conservation Status Working Group, gets down to Capybara level

A day's break: the excursion party on the entrance steps to the Fortaleza de Santa Cruz

A juvenile Magnificent Frigatebird tries to seize a food item while staying on the wing, photograph by Richard Phillips

With grateful thanks to Patricia Pereira Serafini for arranging and helping to guide the outing, and to all ACAP’s Brazilian colleagues for so efficiently hosting this year's ACAP meetings in the delightful surroundings of a sub-tropical beach resort.

John Cooper, .AP Information Officer, 21 May 2019

A plastic straw is found in a juvenile mollymawk albatross in New Zealand

A juvenile mollymawk albatross Thalassarche sp. in an emaciated state was taken into care by Wildbase, a wildlife health service attached to the School of Veterinary Science at Massey University in New Zealand’s Palmerston North on 15 April this year.

The young bird (considered most likely a Globally and Nationally Vulnerable Campbell Albatross T. impavida from photographs seen by Colin Miskelly, Curator Vertebrates, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) was found some 60 km inland from the nearest sea in Greytown on New Zealand’s North Island.  Over 12/13 April strong southerly winds of up to 47 km/h in the region may have contributed to the bird being blown inland.  On arrival at Wildbase it weighed only 1300 g, in comparison with healthy adult Campbell Albatrosses that weigh around three kilograms.  Despite treatment (oral and intravenous rehydration, feeding by tube and being placed in an incubator) the albatross died overnight on the 16/17th.

The juvenile albatross in captivity at Wildbase

Ventral X-ray of the albatross with a plastic straw in the oesophagus (vertical position at top)

Lateral X-ray of the albatross

The plastic straw removed on post mortem

Wildbase reports on its Facebook page:

“It unfortunately died despite our efforts.  It was emaciated and in a very poor state … The [plastic] straw (photographed) was a find on post mortem - which you may be able to make out in the oesophagus of the lateral X-ray”.

Wildbase has also written to ACAP Latest News: “We see emaciated young albatross around this time each year and we now are actively looking for ingested plastics as they are hard to identify on X-ray. We have been using the gastroscope to check the stomach of these birds and often remove bits of plastic.”

Ingestion of plastic items by many albatross species has been regularly recorded, most notably by the Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis of the North Pacific.  Plastic fed to chicks by their parents may be regurgitated in a bolus (along with squid beaks and other indigestible items) prior to fledging.  The albatross, probably having only recently left Campbell Island (the sole breeding site for Campbell Albatrosses where fledging occurs from mid-April to early May), may have been fed the straw by a parent prior to it fledging, or it may have picked it up from the sea surface and swallowed it itself.

Plastic straws appear to be rarely recorded as having been swallowed by southern hemisphere albatrosses.  A previous record covered by ACAP Latest News is of a Grey-headed Albatross T. chrysostoma washed up dead on an Australian shore which contained a straw as well as fragments of latex balloons (click here).

Globally, campaigns have started against the use of single-use plastic straws, many of which end up at sea once discarded (click here).  If successful, perhaps not too many more albatrosses will die from them.

Albatrosses do occasionally end up surprising distances inland.  An Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos ended up 500 km inland in Canada (click here).

With thanks to Pauline Nijman, Wildbase Technician Supervisor and Colim Miskelly, for information and photographs.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 May 2019

ACAP meetings hear of at-sea tracking of juvenile Grey-headed Albatrosses from the South Atlantic

A Grey-headed Albatross chick from the 2018 Bird Island cohort.  The satellite tracker's aerial can be seen. Photograph by Derren Fox

ACAP meetings in Brazil this and last week heard of research conducted on 16 globally Endangered Grey-headed Albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma chicks close to fledging fitted with PTTs (“Platform Transmitter Terminals” or satellite trackers) at Bird Island, South Georgia/Islas Georgias del Sur* in the South Atlantic during May last year.  The Bird Island population is an ACAP Priority Population for study as it is currently considered to be declining in size with annual survival rates of juveniles lower than expected.  One bird flew across the southern Indian Ocean past New Zealand into the Pacific Ocean, travelling a total of 49 604 km when last recorded on 12 December 2018 (see also abstract at PaCSWG5 Inf 19).

 “There are records from observers on board fishing vessels that immature birds are killed in pelagic longline fisheries in some areas that are not used regularly by nonbreeding adults. In addition, circumstantial evidence suggests that because of the population decline there may have been a density-dependent increase in predation by giant petrels [Macronectes sp.] of juvenile grey-headed albatrosses both as they fledge and in the few days immediately thereafter when they often rest on the sea close to the island.

For these reasons, there is an urgent need to:

  • map the movements and foraging areas of juveniles in order to determine the overlap with fisheries,
  • assess the survival rate of juveniles in the initial weeks and months after they fledge.”

The work is therefore continuing with another 16 Grey-headed Albatross chicks fitted with trackers over 11/12 May this year; five of these have now fledged.  The juveniles are being tracked in near real-time with a duty cycle of eight hours on and 43 hours off.  As of today the longest distance travelled by one of these five is 1572 km, in a north-easterly direction.    Read more and access the regularly updated tracking map here.

With thanks to Richard Phillips and Andy Wood for information and Derren Fox for the photograph.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 May 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.

Fourth International Forum on the sub-Antarctic to be held in Hobart, Australia, June 2020

During the 11th Meeting of ACAP's Advisory Committee meeting in Brazil this week, delegates and observers were informed of upcoming conferences of relevance to seabird biology and conservation.  The Australian Delegation reported on the intention to host a two-day conference on sub-Antarctic islands, homes to many ACAP-listed species, next year.  Details follow.

 The Tasmanian Government of Australia will join with the New Zealand Department of Conservation to host the Fourth International Forum on the sub-Antarctic in Hobart, Tasmania over 29-30 July 2020.


“The Forum will be multidisciplinary, interactive and inclusive, encouraging discussion of the common challenges and pressures that face the sub-Antarctic.  It will bring together all those passionate about the sub-Antarctic - scientists, tourism operators, fishers, land managers, heritage experts and policy makers - to share knowledge and experience, explore connections and develop partnerships for a collective future.”

Within the overarching themes of policy, management and science, the Forum will include sessions on climate, conservation, biosecurity, geoscience, tourism, fishing, heritage connectivity, and management challenges.

Immediately after the Sub-Antarctic Forum, Hobart will host the 2020 Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Open Science Conference and the SCAR Delegates Meeting.  Click here for SCAR’s first pre-conference circular.

For more information on the Sub-Antarctic Forum contact Cette adresse e-mail est protégée contre les robots spammeurs. Vous devez activer le JavaScript pour la visualiser..

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 May 2019

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