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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A South African Wandering Albatross gets a second chance after a deck landing in New Zealand

A colour-banded Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans was given a second chance after landing on the deck of a fishing trawler in New Zealand waters last year on 25 June.  The bird was first banded as a breeding adult male in the long-term monitoring colony above Macaroni Bay and towards Archway Bay on South Africa’s Marion Island on 22 February 2016 with metal band J-26722 and white colour band Z21.  It was last recorded ashore brooding a chick on 26 March 2016.  By 30 April the breeding attempt had failed, thus allowing the now “off-duty” failed breeder to travel as far as New Zealand.

J-26722/W-Z21 aboard the Otakou

As reported by onboard observer Susan Chalmers to the South African Bird Ringing Unit (SAFRING), the Wanderer was caught aboard the Sealord trawler Otakou at Port Nelson in Tasman Bay, New Zealand at 41° 14’S; 173° 14’E, 124 days after being banded, 91 days since last being seen at its nest and 56 days since nest failure was first recorded.  The great-circle distance between banding site and recapture locality is 1735 km (click here).

Biz Bell of Wildlife Management International writes to ACAP Latest News “Looks like it landed on the vessel for a rest and got grounded by lack of wind”.  The albatross was released overboard as the Otakou left Port Nelson harbour the same day as its capture.

J-26722/W-Z21 gets released

Photographs by Susan Chalmers, Department of Conservation/Ministry for Primary Industries Observer aboard the Otakou

Sealord's trawler Otakou

With luck W-Z21 will return to ‘Macci Bay’ on Marion Island and attempt to breed once more in the study colony I set up in the early 1980s.

With thanks to Biz Bell, Wildlife Management International Ltd; Dane Paijmans, SAFRING; and Stefan Schoombie & Kim Stevens, FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town.

John Cooper, ACAP information Officer, 20 February 2017


Crossing the Tasman Sea: the Fluttering Shearwater gets studied at the nest and tracked from New Zealand to Australia

Martin Berg (Department of Biology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden) has produced Batchelor's and Master’s degree reports on aspects of the breeding biology and at-sea movements of the Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia, a New Zealand endemic.

The reports’ abstracts follow:

Breeding biology

“The fluttering shearwater (Puffinus gavia) is an abundant seabird endemic to breeding colonies in northern and central New Zealand. The species remains poorly studied, and here we present the first study to examine its breeding biology in detail.  Fluttering shearwater nests were monitored daily from laying in September 2015 to fledging in January 2016 on Burgess Island (Mokohinau Islands group) in the outer Hauraki Gulf, northern New Zealand. Burrows were generally simple and non-branched. Eggs were laid over a period of 39 days with laying peaking 12th September. Incubation was 50 ± 3.7 days and chicks fledged after an average of 74 ± 4.3 days, from late December to the end of January. Chick development corresponds to the pattern observed for other Procellariiformes, gaining body mass rapidly to a maximum of 115% of adult mass, and then losing weight until fledging. Chicks were fed most nights throughout chick-rearing, indicating adult birds have access to a stable food supply close to the colony. Breeding success was 63.8% and similar to other Puffinus species. This study provides baseline biological data for a poorly studied, yet common, New Zealand endemics seabird. The obtained new information will allow for further ecological investigations and improved conservation management for the species. ”

At-sea tracking

“We present the first study of the year-round distribution, activity patterns, and habitat use of one of New Zealand’s most common seabirds, the fluttering shearwater (Puffinus gavia). Seven individuals from Burgess Island and one individual from Long Island were successfully tracked with combined light-saltwater immersion loggers for one to three years. Our tracking data confirms that fluttering shearwaters employ different overwintering dispersal strategies, where three out of eight individuals, for at least one of the three years that they were being tracked, crossed the Tasman Sea to forage over coastal waters along eastern Tasmania and southeastern Australia. Resident birds stayed confined to productive waters of northern and central New Zealand year-round. Although birds frequently foraged over pelagic shelf waters, the majority of tracking locations were found over shallow waters close to the coast. All birds foraged predominantly in daylight and frequently visited the colony at night throughout the year. We found no significant inter-seasonal differences in the activity patterns, or between migratory and resident individuals. Although further studies of intercolony variation in different age groups will be necessary, this study provides novel insights into dispersal and foraging ecology of the fluttering shearwater, which provide important baseline information for conservation as well as for further ecological studies.”

Fluttering Shearwater


Berg, M. 2016.  Breeding biology of fluttering shearwaters (Puffinus gavia) on Burgess Island in northern New Zealand.  Lund: Lund University Libraries Bachelors Student Paper.  24 pp.

Berg, M. 2016.  Year-round distribution, activity patterns and habitat use of a poorly studied pelagic seabird, the fluttering shearwater Puffinus gavia.  Lund: Lund University Libraries Masters Student Paper.  30 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 January 2017

Most Sooty Shearwaters and Arctic Fulmars in the North Pacific contain plastic

Alicia Terepocki (Slater Museum of Natural History, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington, USA) and colleagues write in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin on the levels of plastic found in the guts of Arctic or Northern Fulmars Fulmarus glacialis and Sooty Shearwaters Ardenna grisea in the North Pacific.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“We found microplastic in 89.5% of 143 Northern Fulmars from 2008 to 2013 and 64% of 25 Sooty Shearwaters in 2011–2012 that were found dead or stranded on Oregon and Washington beaches.  Average plastic loads were 19.5 pieces and 0.461 g for fulmars and 13.3 pieces and 0.335 g for shearwaters.  Pre-manufactured plastic pellets accounted for 8.5% of fulmar and 33% of shearwater plastic pieces.  In both species, plastic in proventriculi averaged 2–3 mm larger in greatest dimension than in ventriculi. Intestinal plastic in fulmars averaged 1 mm less in greatest dimension than ventricular plastic.  There was no significant reduction in pieces or mass of plastic in 33 fulmars held for a median of seven days in a plastic-free environment.  Three fulmars that survived to be released from rehabilitation regurgitated plastic, which provided an alternative outlet for elimination of plastic and requires reassessment of the dynamics of plastic in seabird gastrointestinal tracts.”


Sooty Shearwater, photograph by the West Coast Penguin Trust


Terepocki, A.K., Brush, Kleine, L.U., Shugart, G.W. & Hodum, P. 2017.  Size and dynamics of microplastic in gastrointestinal tracts of Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) and Sooty Shearwaters (Ardenna grisea).  Marine Pollution Bulletin

John ACAP Information Officer, 18 January 2017 

Cahowcam! The Endangered Bermuda Petrel gets a live-streaming burrow camera

The Endangered Bermuda Petrel or Cahow Pterodroma cahow breeds only on rocky islets off the coast of Bermuda.  “In the early 1600s, this once-numerous seabird was thought to have gone extinct, driven out of existence by the invasive animals and habitat changes associated with the settlement of the island.  In 1951, after nearly 300 years, a single bird was rediscovered, and since then the species has been part of a government-led conservation effort to revive the species”.

A burrow camera from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is now live streaming from an occupied burrow on Nonsuch Island (click here).

“The Cornell Lab of Ornithology [has] entered into a partnership with the innovative Nonsuch Expeditions, a multimedia and outreach effort centredterrestrial conservation officer Jeremy Madeiros during his weekly nest checks throughout the nesting season.”

The “on-camera pair has been together since 2009, using this same burrow each of those years, and has fledged their young successfully for the last three years.  During the nesting season, the cahows only visit and court under the cover of night, then head out to sea during daylight hours.  The pair returned to the island in mid-November to court and mate, then disappeared out to sea for the month of December.  Last night (January 11), the female returned, and within an hour or so of arriving she laid an egg that will be the singular focus of the pair's efforts for the next 5-6 months (watch highlight).  Sometime tonight or tomorrow night, the male should return to take over incubation duties for the next month while the female heads out to sea.  The egg won't hatch for another 52-55 days—likely around the end of the first week of March.”

Bermuda Petrel with a leg-mounted data logger, photograph by Nicholas Carlisle

 Read more about research and conservation activities conducted with the Bermuda Petrel here.

There are also nest cams on the go or shortly to give live for Northern Royal Albatrosses Diomedea sanfordi in New Zealand (Royalcam) and a Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis (click here) in the Hawaiian Islands.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 January 2017


South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur) gets Conservation Action Plans for its decreasing albatross populations

Populations of ACAP-listed Wandering Diomedea exulans, Black-browed Thalassarche melanophris and Grey-headed T. chrysostoma Albatrosses breeding at South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* are in decline as set out in a publication this month in the journal Polar Biology (click here).

The main cause for these declines has been attributed to incidental mortality associated with fisheries operating outside of the island’s maritime zone.  As a result of these declines the three albatrosses on the island have been designated as ‘Priority Populations’ by ACAP.

Conservation Action Plans for the three albatrosses have now been produced “to serve as a framework to guide, in an informed, prioritised and co-ordinated manner, actions required to improve the conservation status of [the islands’] albatross populations”.  A summary plan of the high priority actions is also available (click here).

Several high priority actions which are needed to invoke a step-change in the conservation fortunes of these populations have been identified which include conducting a detailed analysis of the overlap between birds and fisheries to identify highest risk fleets, areas and seasons. This work is scheduled to be conducted in collaboration with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Black browed Albtross Bird Island Richard Phillips

Black-browed Albatross on Bird Island, South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)*, photograph by Richard Phillips

With thanks to Jennifer Lee and Anton Wolfaardt.

Summary Action Plan

Summary Conservation Action Plan for Wandering, Black-browed and Grey-headed Albatrosses Breeding at South Georgia (2016-2020)

Species Specific Action Plans

Conservation Action Plan for Wandering Albatrosses at South Georgia (2016-2020)

Conservation Action Plan for Black-browed Albatrosses at South Georgia (2016-2020)

Conservation Action Plan for Grey-headed Albatrosses at South Georgia (2016-2020)

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 January 2017

*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.

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

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