Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Kite aerial photography can be used to survey albatross colonies

Karine Delord (Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Villiers en Bois, France) and colleagues have published in the Journal of Field Ornithology on using a kite to take aerial photographs of seabird colonies.  The senior author considers the technology could be used to take low-cost photographs of breeding albatrosses and surface-breeding petrels, including under windy conditions as prevail on sub-Antarctic islands.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Obtaining aerial high-resolution images of bird nesting colonies using remote-sensing technology such as satellite-based remote sensing, manned aircraft, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles might not be possible for many researchers due to financial constraints.  Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) provides a possible low-cost alternative.  We collected digital images of ground-nesting seabirds (i.e., cormorants and penguins) in two different ecosystems using a kite-based platform equipped with consumer-grade digital cameras with time-lapse capability to obtain estimates of breeding population size.  KAP proved to be an efficient method for acquiring high-resolution aerial images.  We obtained images of colonies of seabirds ranging in size from hundreds to several hundreds of thousands breeding pairs during flights lasting from a few minutes up to three hours, from flat to very steep areas, and in contrasted wind conditions (from 0.5 to 6 Beaufort force).  KAP is an efficient low-cost method for acquiring high-resolution aerial images and an alternative to ground-based censuses, especially useful in rugged areas.”

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses breeding on Prince Edward Island: suitable for kite aerial photography?

Photograph by Peter Ryan

With thanks to Karine Delord.


Delord, K., Roudaut, G., Guinet, C., Barbraud, C., Bertrand, S. & Weimerskirch, H. 2015.  Kite aerial photography: a low-cost method for monitoring seabird colonies.  Journal of Field Ornithology 86: 173-179.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 June 2015