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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A Wandering Albatross broods a Southern Giant Petrel chick

A recent newsletter article from Bird Island in the South Atlantic carries the strange story of a Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans brooding a Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus chick, as told here with permission by Jess Walkup:

“A wandering albatross on Bird Island has surprised the scientists there.  During a regular check on nests one bird was found to have a chick more than a month before the wanderer eggs usually hatch.  After initial confusion and checking of dates the chick was inspected more closely and found to be a southern giant petrel chick!

Southern giant petrel chicks hatch throughout January, and have recently begun to be left alone on their nests while their parents forage on the beaches.  It appears that after its own egg was broken or predated [sic], the female wanderer moved to the giant petrel nest, a few meters away, and ‘adopted’ her neighbour’s chick.  Cross-species adoption is rarely observed in the wild in birds.  The female albatross brooding the chick was herself hatched in 2001 and has not been recorded on the island since then, and although a male albatross had been observed on the original wanderer nest, it has not been seen since the female began brooding the petrel chick.  The scientists say she is very protective of her new ward, but it remains to be seen whether she will attempt to feed the chick, or the chicks’ rightful parents return to claim it.

This is the first case of inter-species adoption (or perhaps “chick-napping”?) that has been seen on Bird Island so they are monitoring its progress closely.”

It is now reported that the chick has died.

Wandering Albatross broods a giant petrel chick, photograph by Jess Walkup

With thanks to Jessica Walkup, Zoological Field Assistant, Bird Island and Richard Phillips, British Antarctic Survey.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 March 2014

With whom do you overlap out there? Spatial overlapping between non-breeding albatrosses and commercial fisheries on the Patagonian Shelf

Sofía Copello (Grupo Vertebrados, Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras CONICET – UNMdP, Argentina) and colleagues have looked at the spatial overlap between albatrosses, chiefly the Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris, and the commercial fishing fleet operating off Argentina.  Their findings have been published recently in the online version of Journal of Sea Research.

The paper’s English abstract follows:

“Incidental mortality in fisheries is the main at-sea threat albatrosses are facing nowadays.  In this study we used remote sensing techniques to model the degree of spatial overlapping between the Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) and Argentine fisheries, assuming this as a proxy of risk for albatrosses.  Eleven tags were deployed on albatrosses during the non-breeding seasons 2011 and 2012 in the Patagonian Shelf.  Their distribution overlapped to different extent with the two coastal trawl, three offshore trawl and one demersal longline fisheries.  The overlap index showed highest values with both coastal fleets, followed by the ice-chilling trawl fleet.  These intersections were located in the Argentine-Uruguay Common Fishing Zone, in coastal areas of the SE of Buenos Aires province, El Rincón estuary and over the shelf break.  The analysis of intersections of focal areas from albatrosses and all fisheries allowed us the identification of thirty-four fishing management units (1° by 1° grid within the Argentine EEZ) classified as of medium, high or very high conservation priority.  Very high priority units were placed between 35 and 38°S in the external mouth of Rio de la Plata, and between 45 and 47°S in neighboring waters East to the hake fishing closure.  Although possible biases due to the limited number of tracked birds and the locations where albatrosses were captured and instrumented, the information presented in this study provides a comprehensive picture of important areas of overlapping during winter that could be used by the fishery administration to prioritize conservation actions under limited resource scenarios”.

Black-browed Albatross, photograph by Juan Pablo Seco Pon


Copello, S., Seco Pon, J.P. & Favero, M. 2014.  Spatial overlap of Black-browed albatrosses with longline and trawl fisheries in the Patagonian Shelf during the non-breeding season.  Journal of Sea Research. doi: 10.1016/j.seares.2014.02.006.

Juan Pablo Seco Pon, ACAP South American News Correspondent, 20 March 2014

ACAP produces conservation guideline posters on removing fishing hooks from live albatrosses and petrels

ACAP has recently produced two posters it its Conservation Guideline Series that explain how to remove fishing hooks from live albatrosses and petrels.

The posters are now available for downloading on this website.  An A3 version is suitable for wall display, while a two-page A4 version can be laminated back-to-back and kept at the ready with fishing equipment – along with the illustrated items (pliers, knife, etc.) required to remove longline and other hooks from live birds harmlessly.

The A3 poster


The two-page A4 poster

The new guidelines follow on from three others previously produced: on eradication in 2009, on biosecurity in 2011, and on census methods in 2013 (click here).  A fifth conservation guideline document, on diseases, is in production.

It is intended that printed versions of the hook removal guideline posters will be made available at the next meeting of ACAP’s Advisory Committee (AC8) and of two of its working groups, due to be held in Punta del Este, Uruguay this September (click here).

A similar hook removal poster and guidelines has been produced by the New Zealand-based Southern Seabird Solutions Trust, with a separate poster produced especially for anglers.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 March 2014

Fluttering Shearwater translocation in New Zealand is a learning experience for Kauai’s Newell’s Shearwaters and Ramsay’s Manx Shearwaters

New Zealand is a world leader in developing techniques for and undertaking the translocation of burrowing seabird chicks to create new or restore extinct colonies.  Translocation attempts in New Zealand have included such procellariiform species as the ACAP-listed Black Petrel Procellaria parkinsoni, Grey-faced Petrel Pterodroma macroptera gouldi, Taiko or Magenta Petrel P. magenta, Chatham Petrel P. axillaris, Pycroft’s Petrel P. pycroftiHutton’s Shearwater Puffinus huttoni, Fluttering Shearwater P. gavia, Common Diving Petrel Pelecanoides urinatrix and Fairy Prion Pachyptila turtur. Click here and here for earlier ACAP Latest News items on some of these translocation efforts.

New Zealand (and Australian) expertise has led to translocation efforts being attempted in other parts of the World.  An example is the Critically Endangered Bermuda Petrel or Cahow Pterodroma cahow (click here).

A project to reintroduce Fluttering Shearwaters to 25-ha Matiu/Somes Island Scientific and Historic Reserve in Wellington Harbour has led to further international collaborations.  In 2006 and again in 2010 solar-powered sound systems were installed to attract adult birds to artificial burrows with some success: by 2013 a few eggs had been laid but none hatched.

Matiu/Somes Island Scientific and Historic Reserve in Wellington Harbour

Photograph by John Cooper

An adult Fluttering Shearwater in an artifical burrow on Matiu/Somes Island

Photograph by Shane Cotter

Following on from this attraction effort 80 Fluttering Shearwater chicks have been brought each year over the period 2012-2014 to Matiu/Somes from Long Island in Queen Charlotte Sound, placed in artificial burrows and fed by hand on “sardine smoothies” as they completed their growth.  Nearly all of these chicks successfully fledged each year (click here for more information on this translocation exercise).  The operation has been led by the Matiu/Somes Island Charitable Trust with support from the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

The lids of the 93 artificial burrows are sequentially numbered; half the colony can be seen, photograph by Mike Rumble

A Fluttering Shearwater chick in its artificial burrow, photograph by David Cornick  

A chick about to be collected from its burrow for feeding.  The internal blockade stops the chicks exiting the burrow too early, photograph by David Cornick 

Inside the feeding shed with two chicks being fed sardine smoothies

Photograph by Alison Ballance 

Detailed records are kept for each translocated chick

Photograph by David Cornick

In 2012 the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Warden from Ramsey Island in Wales visited Matiu/Somes to see the translocation site and particular the nest boxes utilized.  Similar boxes have now been installed in a Manx Shearwaters P. puffinus study colony on Ramsay as part of a research effort (click here).

This year the Kaua'i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project and Pacific Rim Conservation from the USA’s Hawaiian Islands were invited to assist with the project and to observe the techniques. This gained knowledge will help guide work with Endangered Newell's Shearwaters P. newelli on Kauai where it is intended to translocate chicks into the to-be-fenced area at Nihoku (click here) in the next few years.

A further international connection was when a field trip to the colony as part of the 5th International Albatross and Petrel Conference that was held in Wellington in August 2012.  A number of international delegates took this opportunity including from Japan and the USA.

Click here to read of a current New Zealand effort translocating Cook’s Petrels Pterodroma cookii.

With thanks to Alison Balance, Shane Cotter, Helen Gummer, David Cornick, Andre Raine and Mike Rumble for information and photographs.

Selected Literature:

Anden Consulting 2013.  Draft Environmental Assessment Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i September 2013.  Honolulu: Anden Consulting.  169 pp.

Bell, M., Bell, B.D. & Bell, E.A. 2005.  Translocation of Fluttering Shearwater (Puffinus gavia) chicks to create a new colony.  Notornis 52: 11-15.

Gaze, P. & Cash, B. 2008.  A history of wildlife translocations in the Marlborough Sounds.  DOC Occasional Publication No. 72.  Wellington: Department of Conservation.  23 pp.

Gummer, H. & Adams, L. 2010.  Translocation techniques for fluttering shearwaters (Puffinus gavia): establishing a colony on Mana Island, New Zealand.  Wellington: Department of Conservation.  52 pp.

Miskelly, C.M. & Taylor, G.A. 2004.  Establishment of a colony of Common Diving Petrels (Pelecanoides urinatrix) by chick transfers and acoustic attraction.  Emu 104: 205-211.

Miskelly, C.M., Taylor, G.A., Gummer, H. & Williams, R. 2009.  Translocations of eight species of burrow-nesting seabirds (genera Pterodroma, Pelecanoides, Pachyptila and Puffinus: Family Procellariidae).  Biological Conservation 142: 1965-1980.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 March 2014

90 000 Yelkouan Shearwaters flying through the Bosphorus in four hours may equal the species’ total population

In the course of the Bosphorus Coastal Count Marathon by the Yelkouan Shearwater Project Turkey 90 000 Vulnerable Yelkouan Shearwaters Puffinus yelkouan were counted flying south in four hours on 5 February 2014 in the strait between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea (click here).  Birds flying north were not included in the count.

 Yelkouan Shearwaters

Following the 73 000 birds counted on 4 February 2012 (also reported as 75 000) and 53 000 in 2011, this new count approaches the maximum value for the estimated population in the Mediterranean Basin: “[f]igures point to a total of 15,337-30,519 pairs equating to 46,000-92,000 individuals based on a population assessment covering the species's [sic] entire range.” (click here)

Yelkouan Shearwater Project Turkey aims at determining seasonal changes in the movements and numbers of Yelkouan Shearwaters in the Sea of Marmara, and in the two straits linking it to the Aegean (Dardanelles) and Black (Bosphorus) Seas.

The Yelkouan Shearwater has been proposed for listing within the Albatross and Petrel Agreement (click here).

Photographs from Yelkouan Shearwater Project Turkey. 

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 March 2014