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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Do Shy as well as White-capped Albatrosses occur in the south-west Atlantic?

Sebastián Jiménez (Proyecto Albatros y Petreles – Uruguay, Centro de Investigación y Conservación Marina, Canelones, Uruguay) and colleagues have published in the journal Emu Austral Ornithology on shy-type albatrosses Thalassarche sp. in the south-west Atlantic.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Albatrosses are killed or injured through by-catch in longline fisheries and by collisions with warp cables in trawl fisheries.  Detection of areas where albatrosses interact with fisheries is important for their conservation.  Shy (Thalassarche cauta) and White-capped (T. steadi) Albatrosses are difficult to study from vessels as they are phenotypically similar.  However, the two species can be identified by molecular analysis.  The six-fold difference in the size of the total populations of these two species could mask by-catch of the less-abundant Shy Albatross, particularly when available sample sizes of by-catch are small.  Here we document the species of a sample of 29 shy-type albatrosses killed as fisheries by-catch to confirm the observation that White-capped Albatrosses are the dominant shy-type albatross in the south-western Atlantic Ocean and exposed to the pelagic longline fishery there.  Using a test based on a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) previously reported in the mtDNA of both species, 28 specimens were identified as White-capped Albatross.  The SNP test and phylogenetic analyses suggested that the remaining bird was a Shy Albatross.  Further analyses with other independent markers could confirm the identification of the latter.  This result indicates the possibility that Shy Albatrosses reach the south-western Atlantic Ocean.  There is no doubt that White-capped Albatrosses, which are a regular visitor to Uruguayan waters, is the predominant shy-type albatross in the south-western Atlantic.  However, a small proportion of shy-type albatrosses in this region could be Shy Albatross but further analysis is needed to confirm this.”

 

Shy Albatross, photograph by Drew Lee

Reference:

Sebastián Jiménez, Alejandro Marquez, Martin Abreu, Rodrigo Forselledo, Alfredo Pereira & Andrés Domingo 2015.  Molecular analysis suggests the occurrence of Shy Albatross in the south-western Atlantic Ocean and its by-catch in longline fishing.  Emu http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU13105.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 January 2015

Do Wandering Albatrosses get old? A new study does not find signs of senescence

Hannah Froy (Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, UK) and colleagues have published in the on-line/open-access journal PLoS ONE on whether Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans show signs of ageing in their foraging behaviour.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Age-related variation in demographic rates is now widely documented in wild vertebrate systems, and has significant consequences for population and evolutionary dynamics.  However, the mechanisms underpinning such variation, particularly in later life, are less well understood.  Foraging efficiency is a key determinant of fitness, with implications for individual life history trade-offs.  A variety of faculties known to decline in old age, such as muscular function and visual acuity, are likely to influence foraging performance.  We examine age-related variation in the foraging behaviour of a long-lived, wide-ranging oceanic seabird, the wandering albatross Diomedea exulans.  Using miniaturised tracking technologies, we compared foraging trip characteristics of birds breeding at Bird Island, South Georgia.  Based on movement and immersion data collected during the incubation phase of a single breeding season, and from extensive tracking data collected in previous years from different stages of the breeding cycle, we found limited evidence for age-related variation in commonly reported trip parameters, and failed to detect signs of senescent decline.  Our results contrast with the limited number of past studies that have examined foraging behaviour in later life, since these have documented changes in performance consistent with senescence.  This highlights the importance of studies across different wild animal populations to gain a broader perspective on the processes driving variation in ageing rates.”

 

Wandering Albatrosses, photograph by Richard Phillips

With thanks to Richard Phillips for information.

Reference:

Froy, P.H., Lewis, S., Catry, P., Bishop, C.M., Forster, I.P., Fukuda, A., Higuchi, H., Phalan, B., Xavier, J.C., Nussey D.H. & Phillips, R.A. 2015.  Age-related variation in foraging behaviour in the Wandering Albatross at South Georgia: no evidence for senescence.  PLoS ONE 10(1): e0116415. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0116415.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 January 2015

Where did that albatross go? The ninth bi-annual North Star Transmitter Grant Program has eight PTTs to give away

For the ninth time North Star Science and Technology will award a total of eight battery- or solar-powered Argos Platform Transmitter Terminals (PTTs) to one to three recipients (eight PTTs to one project or four PTTs to each of two projects, or four to one, two to one and two to another).

“PTTs are powerful, cutting-edge tools for the study of bird migration that greatly extend the range over which individual birds can be tracked.  Research that contributes to our knowledge of avian biology and that provides data useful for bird conservation, particularly of threatened species, will receive preference in the selection process.”

An ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwater carries a satellite transmitter with an exposed aerial

Photograph by Henri Weimerskirch

The American Bird Conservancy will handle the proposal submission process, review proposals and select the winning projects.

Click here for more information and the proposal guidelines.  The deadline for submission of proposals is 13 March 2015.  Applications and questions should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Vice President, Oceans & Islands Division, American Bird Conservancy.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 January 2015

Results of the most recent albatross counts on Kure Atoll

The Kure Atoll Conservancy has reported on the completion of the most recent counts of breeding albatrosses on Kure Atoll, one of the USA’s North-Western Hawaiian Islands.

Whole-island counts of occupied nests have revealed totals of 38 307 Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis pairs, against 17 604 nests in the previous season.  The previous highest count was of 24 323 in 2012.

The Black-footed Albatross P. nigripes count was of 3671 occupied nests, 817 more than last year’s count and close to the 2011 record high of 3766.

A Black-footed and a Laysan Albatross on Kure Atoll

The Short-tailed Albatross P. albatrus female-female pair is once more present on the atoll; this couple have had a confirmed nest each year on Kure since 2010.  The Hawaiian Department Land and Natural Resources (DNLR) did not have a presence during winter months on Kure Atoll before 2010 so it is possible they had been present earlier but gone undocumented.

 

Short-tailed Albatross female-female pair on Kure Atoll

In other Kure news the body of a Black-footed Albatross that was banded on the atoll in June washed up on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i in late December.  Black-footed Albatrosses are only occasionally seen on the main Hawaiian Islands.

 

Banded Black-footed Albatross corpse on Moloka'i

Information from the Kure Atoll Conservancy.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 January 2015

An incubating Laysan Albatross gets unhooked

A longline hook with attached line was successfully removed from an incubating Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis on Kure Atoll, one of the USA's North-Western Hawaiian Islands on 18 December by a field team from the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources (DNLR).

The bird was checked later when it was still sitting on its egg.  According to the Kure Atoll Conservancy’s Facebook Page the “hook is from the longline industry and it is likely that the bird was hooked as the line was being hauled in.  The line was probably cut when the bird was pulled on deck, leaving 12" [300 mm] of heavy line and the huge hook in the throat of the bird. “

 

Hooked albatross: before and after, photographs from the Kure Atoll Conservancy

With thanks to Lindsay Young, ACAP North Pacific News Correspondent and the Kure Atoll Conservancy for information and photographs.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 January 2015