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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The Kure Atoll Conservancy supports the inauguration of World Albatross Day on 19 June

Kure Atoll Conservancy

The Kure Atoll Conservancy is a non-profit foundation dedicated to supporting management programmes that enhance biological diversity, ecosystem health and cultural resources of the Kure Atoll Seabird Sanctuary in the USA’s North-Western Hawaiian Islands.  The NGO works to develop additional funding through proposal writing and donor requests to conduct habitat restoration, pollution prevention, monitoring, education outreach and more.  The contributions of volunteers stationed on the atoll for six-month periods form an essential part of the conservancy’s work (click here).

Kure Atoll (the world's most northerly coral atoll) at the western end of the North-Western Hawaiian Islands supports on its 86-ha Green Island important populations of Black-footed Phoebastria nigripes and Laysan P. immutabilis Albatrosses and of other seabirds, as well as in recent years a single female-female pair of globally Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatrosses P. albatrus.

Albatrosses 2 Kure Atoll Cynthia Vanderlip shrunk

Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses on Kure

Short tail Kure

Kure Atoll’s Short-tailed Albatross pair – both are females that lay infertile eggs

Photographs by Cynthia Vanderlip

Black footed and Laysan Albatrosses Kure Atoll Conservancy

Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses on Kure Atoll

Cynthia Vanderlip.3

Cynthia Vanderlip, photograph by Kevin Sund

Cynthia Vanderlip is the founder and Executive Director of the Kure Atoll Conservancy.  In 2002 she began supervising the habitat restoration and biological monitoring at Kure Atoll for the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources.  She writes to ACAP Latest News in support of World Albatross Day: “Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses nesting in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument are living near sea level where climate change is destroying their breeding grounds.  It is time to prepare habitat in Hawaii's high islands and invite them back to live with us where they once thrived.”

The Hawaiian Islands are well served by environmental NGOs which work to conserve seabirds and their island habitats.  Kure Atoll Conservancy joins Friends of Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge (FoHI), Friends of Kauaʻi Wildlife Refuges (FKWR), Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (FOMA) and the Hawaiian Audubon Society (HAS) in this work and in supporting the inauguration of an annual World Albatross Day on 19 June.  Mahalo to all.

With thanks to Cynthia Vanderlip, Kure Biological Field Station Supervisor, Kure Atoll Seabird Sanctuary, State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 April 2020

The USA’s Cornell Lab of Ornithology endorses World Albatross Day 2020

Cornell Lab of Ornithology 

There are only a few ornithological institutes with an international standing around the world.  Surely, one of them must be the well-known Cornell Lab of Ornithology, based at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in the USA since 1915.  The Lab’s mission is “to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds”.

An important part of Cornell Lab’s work is its operation of ‘bird cams’ as a free educational resource, usually set up at occupied nests, that live stream 24 hours a day to the Internet.  The Lab writes on its web site: “Our viewers tell us that watching the cams is a life changing experience: an unprecedented learning experience that they liken to virtual field trips or field biology in their living room”.  After a live camera that followed breeding Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis on the Hawaiian island of Kauai over several breeding seasons, viewers can now watch an Endangered Northern Royal Albatross Diomedea sanfordi nest in the mainland breeding colony within the Taiaroa Head Nature Reserve in New Zealand.  The egg hatched on 31 January and the growing chick can now be watched as it waits to get fed by its parents.  The operation of the ‘Royal Cam’ is partnered with New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.

A live-streaming Cornell Lab camera is also currently following the breeding attempt of a pair of Endangered Bermuda Petrels or Cahows Pterodroma cahow in their burrow on Nonsuch Island in Bermuda.

In addition, the Cornell Lab manages an Online Guide to Birds and Bird Watching that offers courses on bird biology, identification and the like.  The Lab’s eBird facility is a way thousands of bird watchers around the world have become ‘citizen scientists’ by logging their observations for professional study.

 John Fitzpatrick.1

Dr John Fitzpatrick, Executive Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

ACAP Latest News reached out to the Cornell Lab to gain its support for this year’s inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June.  The Lab’s Executive Director, Dr John Fitzpatrick replied, saying: “Nobody ever forgets the experience of seeing his or her first albatross.  For years the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has been proud to feature them, as well as Bermuda’s Endangered Cahow (Bermuda Petrel), on our Bird Cam websites for all the world to admire and learn from.  These magnificent birds of the high seas ride the oceanic winds like no other.  Reversing their global declines must become one of humanity’s top conservation priorities.  We heartily endorse honoring and celebrating these birds on World Albatross Day 2020.”

With this welcome support the EGI joins three other prestigious ornithological institutes supporting ‘WAD2020’: the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology at the UK’s in UK’s University of Oxford, the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology in Japan.

With thanks to John Fitzpatrick, Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 April 2020

Antipodean, Light-mantled, Southern Royal and White-capped Albatrosses and Northern Giant and White-chinned Petrels at the Auckland Islands

White capped Albatross Graham Parker Lea Finke 

White-capped Albatross by ABUN artist Lea Finke, from a photograph by Graham Parker

Colin Miskelly (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand) and colleagues have published in the journal Notornis on historical and recent records of birds of the Auckland Islands, including of six ACAP-listed species.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The Auckland Islands are the largest island group in the New Zealand subantarctic region, and have the most diverse avifauna, including eight endemic taxa.  We present the first vcomprehensive review of the avifauna of the Auckland Islands, based on a database of 23,028 unique bird records made between 1807 and 2019.  At least 45 species breed (or bred) on the islands, with a further 77 species recorded as visiting the group as migrants, vagrants, or failed colonisers.  Information on the occurrence of each species on the different islands in the group is presented, along with population estimates, a summary of breeding chronology and other reproductive parameters, and diet where known.  The frequency at which 33 bird species were encountered during visits to the seven largest islands is compared graphically to facilitate comparison of each island’s bird fauna in relation to habitat differences and the history of introduced mammals.  Disappointment Island (284 ha) is the least modified island in the group.  However, it lacks forest, and so has a very restricted land bird fauna, lacking ten species that breed on other islands in the group.  Auckland Island (45,889 ha) is the only major island in the group where introduced mammals are still present.  As a result, it also has a depauperate bird fauna, with at least 11 species completely absent and a further seven species reported at lower frequencies than on the next largest islands (Adams and Enderby Islands).”

This publication forms part of a compilation of 19 papers appearing in a special issue of the journal Notornis of Birds New Zealand that covers many aspects of the avifauna of the Auckland Islands.  The special issue is also being made available as a 436-page book with the title Lost Gold: Ornithology of the subantarctic Auckland Islands.  Edited by Colin Miskelly and Craig Symes, it can be ordered for purchase (click here).  An interview with the two editors gives information about their work with the book.  Click here to access abstracts for all 19 papers.

With thanks to Colin Miskelly.

Reference:

Miskelly, C.M., Elliott, G.P., Parker, G.C., Rexer-Huber, K., Russ, R.B, Taylor, R.H., Tennyson, A.J.D. &Walker, K.J. 2020.  Birds of the Auckland Islands, New Zealand subantarctic.  Notornis 67: 59–151.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 April 2020

A well-travelled World Albatross Day banner gets to Rosemary Rock, New Zealand's northernmost albatross colony

jWAD banner Three Kings Matt Rayner by Kevin Parker 

Matt Rayner holds up a ‘WAD2020’ banner on Rosemary Rock, Manawatāwhi/Three Kings Islands, with Northern Buller’s Albatross chicks on both sides, photograph by Kevin Parker

After photographing a World Albatross Day banner on Campbell Island, site of New Zealand’s southernmost albatross colonies, Kevin Parker of Parker Conservation was fortunate enough to take another banner photo on New Zealand’s northernmost albatross colony on the Manawatāwhi/Three Kings Islands.  Parker Conservation’s other two staff members, Kalinka Rexer-Huber, with whom Kevin travelled to Campbell, and Graham Parker also recently took banner photos on New Zealand’s Auckland and Bounty Islands.

Rosemary Rock, a small islet (170 x 40 m; 50 m high) in the Princes Chain of the Manawatāwhi/Three Kings Islands is situated 57 km north of New Zealand’s North Island.  It supports a small population of 15-35 pairs of the globally Near Threatened and nationally Naturally Uncommon Northern Buller’s Albatross Thalassarche buller platei first discovered in 1983.

Along with Matt Rayner, Curator of Terrestrial Vertebrates, Jen Carol, photographer, both from the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and Trenton Neho and Thomas Hvid of local iwi Ngāti Kuri (the local Māori tribe), Kevin managed to get ashore in late February.  He writes: “It was a very quick trip and a very difficult landing - we had to swim onto the island and contend with a chunky swell in scrambling up some very slippery rocks - it was all great fun though!”  Seven adult Northern Buller’s Albatrosses and four chicks were seen on the island.  The Manawatāwhi/Three Kings Islands are mana by Ngati Kuri and the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

WAD2020 banner photos have also been taken at the Antipodes and Snares Islands, so in addition to the Three Kings, all five New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic island groups have been covered.

With thanks to Kevin Parker, Matt Rayner, Trenton Neho, Thomas Hvid and Jen Carol.

References:

Frost, P. 2017. Sooty Tern: Three Kings Islands.  BirdingNZ.net.

Wright, A.E. 1984.  Buller's Mollymawks breeding at the Three Kings Islands.  Notornis 31: 203–207.

McCallum, J., Brook, F. & Francis, M. 1985.  Buller's Mollymawks on Rosemary Rock, Three Kings Islands, in 1985. Notornis 32: 257-259.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 April 2020

Bullers Albatross Laurie Johnson Virginia Nicol

Buller’s Albatross by ABUN artist Virginia Nicol, from a photograph by Laurie Smaglick Johnson

How well does a Marine Protected Area in the southwest Atlantic match up with top predators, including albatrosses?

           

Wandering Albatrosses at sea, by ABUN artist Maureen Bennetts, from a photograph by Dimas Gianuca 

Jonathan Handley (BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.) and colleagues have published open access in the journal Diversity and Distributions on using predator tracking, including of seven species of ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels, to test the efficacy of a large Marine Protected Area.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Aim

Marine protected areas can serve to regulate harvesting and conserve biodiversity. Within large multi‐use MPAs, it is often unclear to what degree critical sites of biodiversity are afforded protection against commercial activities. Addressing this issue is a prerequisite if we are to appropriately assess sites against conservation targets. We evaluated whether the management regime of a large MPA conserved sites (Key Biodiversity Areas, KBAs) supporting the global persistence of top marine predators.

Method

We collated population and tracking data (1,418 tracks) from 14 marine predator species (Procellariiformes, Sphenisciformes, Pinnipedia) that breed at South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and identified hotspots for their conservation under the recently developed KBA framework. We then evaluated the spatiotemporal overlap of these sites and the different management regimes of krill, demersal longline and pelagic trawl fisheries operating within a large MPA, which was created with the intention to protect marine predator species.

Results

We identified 12 new global marine KBAs that are important for this community of top predators, both within and beyond the focal MPA. Only three species consistently used marine areas at a time when a potentially higher‐risk fishery was allowed to operate in that area, while other interactions between fisheries and our target species were mostly precluded by MPA management plans.

Main conclusions

We show that current fishery management measures within the MPA contribute to protecting top predators considered in this study and that resource harvesting within the MPA does not pose a major threat—under current climate conditions. Unregulated fisheries beyond the MPA, however, pose a likely threat to identified KBAs. Our approach demonstrates the utility of the KBA guidelines and multispecies tracking data to assess the contributing role of well‐designed MPAs in achieving local and internationally agreed conservation targets.”

With thanks to Richard Phillips.

Reference:

Handley, J.M., Pearmain, E.J., Oppel, S.,  Carneiro, A.P.B., Hazin, C., Phillips, R.A., Ratcliffe, N., Staniland, I.J., Clay, T.A., Hall, J., Scheffer, A., Fedak, M., Boehme, L., Pütz, K., Belchier, M. & Boyd, I.L. & Dias, M.P. 2020. Evaluating the effectiveness of a large multi‐use MPA in protecting Key Biodiversity Areas for marine predators.  Diversity and Distributions DOI: 10.1111/ddi.13041.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 April 2020

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