Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

“Weighed in the balance”. Deducing meal sizes fed to Northern Royal Albatross chicks

Junichi Sugishita (Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand) and colleagues have published in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology on recording meal sizes of Northern Royal Albatross Diomedea sanfordi chicks with an automatic weighing system.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Periodic weighing of seabird chicks is labour-intensive and repeated handling can cause high levels of disturbance to chicks.  Although automatic weighing systems using a fibreglass nest have been designed for albatross species with a pedestal nest made of mud, this approach is inappropriate for great albatross species (genus Diomedea) whose nests consist of a low mound of soil and vegetation.  We developed an automatic weighing technique, using a digital scale beneath a natural nest, to remotely measure meal size in great albatrosses.  To illustrate the system’s capability when used coupled with time-lapse cameras, we present sample data by comparing meal sizes fed to chicks by male and female parents of northern royal albatross (Diomedea sanfordi).  Our weighing system is not only applicable to other great albatross species, but can also be modified to allow automatic weighing of other terrestrial breeders.”


Junichi Sugishita adjusts his weighing balance underneath a watching Northern Royal Albatross chick


Sugishita, J., McKenzie, M. Torres, L.G. & Seddon, P.J. 2017.  Automated techniques for measuring meal size in great albatrosses.  New Zealand Journal of Ecology 41(1). DOI:

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 October 2016