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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Over half the plastic items swallowed by Laysan Albatrosses are made of infrequently recycled Polypropylene

Frances Nilsen (Hawai’i Pacific University, Kane’ohe, Hawaii, USA) and colleagues have looked at the various types of plastic ingested by Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis, publishing in the Marine Pollution Bulletin.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) ingest plastic marine debris of a wide range of shape, sizes and sources.  To better characterize this plastic and provide insights regarding its provenance and persistence in the environment, we developed a simple method to classify plastic fragments of unknown origin according to the resin codes used by the Society of Plastics Industry.  Known plastics were analyzed by gas chromatography–mass spectroscopy (GC–MS) to identify indicator chemicals characteristic of each plastic resin.  Application of this method to fragments of ingested plastic debris from boluses of Laysan albatross from Kure Atoll, Hawai’i, yielded proportions of 0.8% High Density Polyethylene, 6.8% Polystyrene, 8.5% Polyethylene Terephthalate, 20.5% Polyvinyl Chloride and 68.4% Polypropylene.  Some fragments were composed of multiple resin types.  These results suggest that infrequently recycled plastics are the dominant fragments ingested by albatross, and that these are the most prevalent and persistent resin types in the marine environment.”

Laysan Albatross, photograph by Peter Leary


Frances Nilsen, F., Hyrenbach, K.D., Fang, J. & Jensen, B.2014.  Use of indicator chemicals to characterize the plastic fragments ingested by Laysan albatross.  Marine Pollution Bulletin DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.07.055.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 31 August 2014

Prolonged handling of Short-tailed Albatross chicks causes muscle damage and behavioural changes

Tomohiro Deguchi (Division of Avian Conservation, Yamashina Institute for Ornithology, Japan) and colleagues have published in the Journal of Wildlife Management on the deleterious effects of handling Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus chicks.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Capture and handling are essential methods for many studies of wild animals but can induce several harmful effects on individuals being studied.  The relationship between physiological and behavioral responses in individuals exposed to these effects is not well known.  We measured the blood level of muscle enzymes, aspartate aminotrasnsferase (AST) and creatine kinase (CK), indicating muscle damage in hand-reared short-tailed albatross (Phoebastoria albatrus) chicks before and after prolonged restraint for transmitter attachment beyond the usual feeding.  We analyzed the relationships between enzyme levels and albatross pre- and post-fledging behaviors.  Prolonged restraint for transmitter attachment elevated the blood levels of AST and CK in chicks.  In chicks with higher levels of these enzymes, fledging date was earlier and the period to sustained flight after fledging was longer.  These results indicated that prolonged handling for transmitter attachment on pre-fledging albatross chicks caused moderate muscle damage and behavioral changes before and after fledging.  Although immediate post-fledging survival (the first 2 weeks at sea) did not appear to be affected, whether longer-term survival may be influenced is unknown.  Reducing handling time for albatross chicks is important to reduce muscle damage and behavioral consequences.”

A Short-tailed Albatross chick gets a satellite transmitter

Photographs by Tomohiro Deguchi

With thanks to Tomohiro Deguchi for information and photographs.


Deguchi, T., Suryan, R.M. & Ozaki, K. 2014.  Muscle damage and behavioral consequences from prolonged handling of albatross chicks for transmitter attachment.  Journal of Wildlife Management DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.765.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 August 2014

Testing alien plant control methods in the Azores to help breeding Cory’s Shearwaters

Carlos Silva has been awarded a Master’s degree for his study of control methods for alien plants on an islet in the Azores that block the entrances to burrows of Cory’s Shearwaters Calonectris borealis.

The English version of the thesis summary follows:

“The introduction of alien species on the islands is a threat to the breeding seabirds.  In some islands in the Azores, the alien flora reduces the potential area of breeding habitat for the Cory's Shearwater Calonetris [sic] diomedea Cory.  In order to understand the problem 10 invasive aliens species was mapped with photo-interpretation techniques.  The non-native, invasive giant reed Arundo donax is the most representative species and covers 28% of Vila Franca do Campo Islet (Azores).  It blocks the entrance of Cory’s shearwater nest burrows and out-competes threatened the Azorean endemic flora.  Three A. donax control methods were tested in 90 square meter plots, and a cost-effectiveness was determined using a Simple Additive Weighting Model.  The most effective control method was cutting and removal of giant reed stems followed by two glyphosate-based foliar herbicide applications (one in May and another in late October i.e. corresponding to before and after the Cory’s shearwater breeding cycle).  After one year, 92% of giant reed was controlled at an estimated cost of 0,66€ per square meter.  This most cost-effective method was applied to 1,35 hectares of the islet.  One year after the A. donax control the colonization of the vegetation on the study site was studied and monitored.  A set of 19 square meter plots was deployed randomly and they were monitored three times from October 2010 to June 2011 (Autumn, Winter and Spring).  It was recorded the vegetation cover rate and the maximum height of each species.  Across the monitored season, 27 species have been identified (6 natives, 4 non-native invasives and 17 non-native).  The non-native plants are the most representative group of plants with highest average of cover rate (0.4094 m²) and number of species.  The native plants are the group less representative and have the lowest vegetation cover.  The non-native invasive plants are the second most representative group of plants with a average of cover area of 0.1498 m² and, at the same time, have the highest records of maximum height (40.75 cm).  Comparing all invasive species, statistical differences on vegetation cover and maximum height between the giant reed and the other invasive species were found.  Throughout the monitored season positive and negative trends on the vegetation cover were detected (positive trends for non native and negative trends for non-native invasive).  However these trends were not found to be statistically different.  The data collected helps to define strategies and a set of actions required to achieve the goals of the restoration.  The giant reed is still the target species, but these goals should be swift in order to prevent the spread of other extremely invasive species.  It is recommended that chemical and manual control for these plants is used.”

Cory's Shearwater, photograph by Paulo Catry


Silva, C.M.N. 2014.  Restauração ecológica do ilhéu de Vila Franca do Campo, Açores: a recuperação do habitat para as aves marinhas.  Master of Technology and Sustainability of Forest Systems, School of Agriculture, Polytechnic Institute of Castelo Branco.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 August 2014

Fly north for what? Great and Sooty Shearwaters ingest plastic in Canadian Atlantic waters

Alex Bond (RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, The Lodge, Sandy, UK) and colleagues write in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on plastic debris ingested by Sooty Puffinus griseus and Great P. gravis shearwaters (southern hemisphere breeders) and Northern Fulmars Fulmarus glacialis found dead in Nova Scotia, Canada

The paper’s abstract follows:

"Plastic pollution is widespread in the marine environment, and plastic ingestion by seabirds is now widely reported for dozens of species.  Beached Northern Fulmars, Great Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters and Cory’s Shearwaters are found on Sable Island, Nova Scotia, Canada regularly, and they can be used to assess plastic pollution.  All species except Cory’s Shearwaters contained plastic debris in their gastrointestinal tracts.  Northern Fulmars, Sooty Shearwaters and Great Shearwaters all showed high prevalence of plastic ingestion (>72%), with Northern Fulmars having the highest number and mass of plastics among the species examined.  There was no difference in plastic ingestion between sexes or age classes.  In all species user plastics made up the majority of the pieces found, with industrial pellets representing only a small proportion in the samples.  Sable Island could be an important monitoring site for plastic pollution in Atlantic Canada.”


A beached Great Shearwater, photograph courtesy of the authors 

Click here for a related paper.


Bond, A.L., Provencher, J.F., Daoust, P.-Y. & Lucas, Z.N. 2014.  Plastic ingestion by fulmars and shearwaters at Sable Island, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Marine Pollution Bulletin  DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.08.010.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 August 2014

Lights,camera,action! Follow the fortunes of Kaloakulua, a Laysan Albatross chick in a Hawaiian suburban garden

A web cam has been following the fortunes of a Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis chick from hatching to fledging (with a geolocator mounted) on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Around 40 pairs of Laysan Albatrosses breed in residential gardens and on golf courses in the Princeville community on Kauai’s north shore (click here), one which has been watched by a Cornell Lab of Ornithology-hosted web cam.

Laysan Albatrosses in Princeville, Kauai, photograph by Bob Waid

Highlights of Kaloakulua’s life in the nest are now available for the 2014 season (click here).  See Mum K312 and Dad Kaluakane crash land, watch what happens when George the Rooster approaches, and see neighbour chick Mango visit for a chat!

Explore more on the Kauai Albatross Network and view earlier video clips of Kaloakulua growing up.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 August 2014

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