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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Keeping apart: assortative mating of Short-tailed Albatrosses from Senkaku and Torishima

Masaki Eda (Hokkaido University Museum, Hokkaido University, Sapporo Hokkaido, Japan) and colleagues have an accepted article published online in the journal Ibis that shows that birds from two populations of Short-tailed Albatrosses Phoebastria albatrus tend to mate assortatively.

The paper's abstract follows:

“Assortative mating is an important pre-mating isolation mechanism that has been observed in some wild populations of seabirds.  The Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus is a globally Vulnerable seabird that breeds mainly on Torishima and the Senkaku Islands in the north-western Pacific Ocean.  Ourtr previous studies suggested that two genetically distinct populations exist, one on Torishima and the other on the Senkaku Islands.  Recently, however, several un-ringed birds in subadult plumage have been observed breeding on Torishima in the Hatsunezaki colony.  Since almost all birds hatched on Torishima since 1979 have been ringed, the natal site of the un-ringed birds was suspected to be the Senkaku Islands.  Genetic differences between the two populations would reveal the natal sites of un-ringed birds. By observing the ring status (ringed or un-ringed) of mating pairs and analysing the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region 2 of un-ringed birds, we assessed whether birds that originated from Torishima and the Senkaku Islands achieved pre-mating isolation.  There was a small number of pairs on Torishima that comprised one ringed and one un-ringed bird, but the observed number was significantly lower than that expected if ringed and un-ringed birds mated randomly.  Furthermore, mtDNA analyses of nine un-ringed birds demonstrated that all belonged to a particular haplotype clade from the Senkaku Islands.  These results show that birds from Torishima and the Senkaku Islands mate assortatively but that there is incomplete pre-mating isolation between birds from the two island groups.  The pre-mating isolation of these two populations of Short-tailed Albatross could arise from differences in the timing of breeding and incompatibility in mating displays.  Since the divergence between the two populations is unlikely to be sufficient to achieve complete post-mating isolation, the two groups are likely to be hybridising.  Further studies using molecular and/or behavioural analyses would be required to reveal the evolutionary significance of hybridisation between these two populations.”

With thanks to Barry Baker.


Short-tailed Albatross, photograph by Hiroshi Hasegawa


Eda, M., Izumi, H., Konno, S., Konno, M.& Sato, F. 2016.  Assortative mating in two populations of Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus on Torishima.  Ibis doi: 10.1111/ibi.12397.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 July 2016

Passing by. Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwaters migrating off Portugal

Johan Elmberg (Division of Natural Sciences, Kristianstad University, Sweden) and colleagues have published in the journal Marine Ornithology on the passage of seabirds, including the ACAP listed and Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwaters Puffinus mauretanicus, past a Portuguese headland.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Land-based counts of migrating seabirds remain essential to increase knowledge about their numbers and movements.  To assess the value of Cabo Carvoeiro (Peniche, Portugal) as a monitoring site in the East Atlantic, we studied seabird species composition, passage patterns and flock size during mid-October 2014.   During standardized counts, we observed nearly 8000 seabirds of 17 species. The ratio of individuals passing in a southerly to southwesterly direction was >96% in all species, showing that genuine migrants were counted. The passage rate (birds/hour) was higher for Northern Gannets Morus bassanus than for any other species, by a factor of approximately 50 (morning mean 906/h, afternoon mean 1153/h).  The globally endangered Balearic Shearwaters Puffinus mauretanicus, Great Skuas Stercorarius skua and Pomarine Skuas S. pomarinus had passage rates of 10–25/h.  Flock size distribution in the 11 most numerous species showed that most migrated singly or in groups of two.  Flock size was larger in Balearic Shearwaters than in both Cory’s Calonectris borealis and Manx Shearwaters P. puffinus.  Among skuas, flock size was larger in Pomarine than in Great Skuas.  The passage rate of Manx Shearwaters was positively correlated with that of Northern Gannets, Great Skuas and Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis.  Northern Gannets showed a positive co-variation with Pomarine Skuas. Balearic and Sooty Shearwaters Ardenna griseus [=grisea]were the only species that did not show any significant co-variation with another species. Morning and afternoon passage rates did not differ significantly in any of the six most numerous species (Northern Gannets, Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters, Great and Pomarine Skuas, and Sandwich Terns), or in Sooty Shearwaters (less numerous).  Thus, the passage rates at Cabo Carvoeiro in October of Balearic Shearwaters and five other species were as high or higher than those reported from any other seawatch in Portugal, indicating the international value of seabird monitoring at Cabo Carvoeiro during the autumn migration.”

Balearic Shearwater at sea, photograph by Pep Arcos


Elmberg, J., Hirschfeld, E., Cardoso, H. & Hessel, R. 2016.  Passage patterns of seabirds in October at Cabo Carvoeiro, Portugal, with special reference to the Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus.  Marine Ornithology 44: 151-156.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 July 2016

Mount Curry erupts: Southern Giant Petrels on Zavodovski Island at risk from volcanic ash

The British Antarctic Survey reports that Mount Curry on volcanic Zavodovski Island has been erupting since March this year (click here).

Mount Curry erupting on Zavodovski Island in June 2016, photograph by David Virgo 

Zavodovski is the most northerly of the South Sandwich Islands, an uninhabited archipelago of islands in the Maritime Antarctic.  It supports millions of breeding penguins as well as a small population of Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus, most recently assessed at 64 pairs breeding on the flat ash plains at the northern end of the island near Reek Point in January 2011 (click here).

“Satellite images have confirmed that between one third and one half of the island has so far been covered in ash.  This is the first time that Zavodovski Island has been witnessed erupting, although there is evidence that it erupted in the 1970s, possibly in the 1980s and as late as 2012.  Two scientific expeditions are scheduled to visit the region from later this year and will try to assess the impact of the eruption.”  News of the situation with the island’s Southern Giant Petrels may then become available.


A Southern Giant Petrel breeding in the South Sandwich Islands, photograph by Andy Black


Lynch, H.J., White, R., Naveen, R., Black, A., Meixler, M.S. & Fagan, W.F. 2016.  In stark contrast to widespread declines along the Scotia Arc, a survey of the South Sandwich Islands finds a robust seabird community.  Polar Biology doi:10.​1007/​s00300-015-1886-6.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 July 2016

The Albatross and Petrel Agreement plans to host a Pterodroma Workshop in New Zealand next year

At the Ninth Meeting of ACAP’s Advisory Committee (AC9) held in La Serena, Chile in May this year it was agreed to host a Pterodroma Workshop at the time of the Tenth Meeting of the Advisory Committee, due to be held in New Zealand next year around late August / early September.  The workshop will consider the conservation status of gadfly petrels in the genus Pterodroma along with other small burrowing petrel species (e.g. in the genera Aphodroma, Bulweria and Pseudobulweria).

Galapagos Petrel 2 Eric Vanderwerf s

Critically Endangered Galapagos Petrel Pterodroma phaeopygia, photograph by Eric Vandwerrf

The following text is taken from the AC9 report from the section on Listing of New Species (pp. 18-19):

“The Committee recognised many species of the genus Pterodroma face significant threats to their conservation, and some of these are already identified by the Agreement as species of concern (AC3 Doc 18, MoP5 Doc 21 and SBWG7 Doc 25).  There are also other small burrowing petrels that share a number of the same conservation characteristics as Pterodroma species.  The Committee noted there are ongoing discussions internationally about appropriate modalities for the conservation of these species including under the Agreement, CMS [Convention on Migratory Species] and in BirdLife International’s ‘Pterodroma Interest Group’, and at least eight Parties to the Agreement have breeding populations of Pterodroma species.

The Committee decided that there was merit in convening a one-day workshop involving interested Parties to the Agreement, and inviting others with an interest in the conservation of these species.  The workshop would be held in association with the Tenth Meeting of the Advisory Committee and its Working Groups in 2017.

The workshop’s objective is to advance understanding about best approaches for international cooperation in the conservation of Pterodroma and other small burrowing petrel species.  The workshop would:

1. share information about current understanding of conservation threats to Pterodroma and other small burrowing petrel species, whether on land, at-sea, or generalised in nature;

2. consider whether and to what extent international cooperation would assist in addressing these threats;

3. as relevant, consider modalities for international cooperation; and

4. prepare a report and recommendations for consideration at the Sixth Session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement in 2018.

The Committee agreed that the Secretariat should take appropriate steps to advertise the scope, timing and venue for the workshop.  A small contact group including Australia, Brazil, Ecuador, New Zealand and UK would assist in the preparations for this workshop.”

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 July 2016

A Light-mantled Albatross comes ashore in Brazil

An adult Light-mantled Albatross [Phoebetria palpebrata] was found in 29 April 2014 … at Vilatur beach … municipality of Saquarema, Rio de Janeiro.  The bird found was quite weak, possibly dehydrated, and unable to take flight.  This paper is one of the few documented records of Light-mantled Albatross in Brazil, noting that more records should be published in scientific journals to understand more the distribution and dispersion pattern of this species.”

Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses, photograph by Aleks Terauds


Corrêa, G.V.V. & Pereira, G.A. 2016.  Documented record of the Light-mantled Albatross Phoebetria palpebrata (Foster, 1785) from southeastern Brazil.  Brazilian Journal of Biology 76: 808-809.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 06 July 2016

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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