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.

Contact the ACAP Communications Advisor if you wish to have your news featured.

Embryonic development of the Laysan Albatross gets studied

Susan Rehorek (Department of Biology, Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, USA) and colleagues have published in the Journal of Morphology on the morphology of developing eggs of the Laysan albatross Phoebastria immutabilis.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Bird incubation is subdivided into two phases: differentiation (embryonic phase) and growth (fetal phase).  Most birds have a relatively short incubation period (20–30 days) with the phase transition occurring midway through the incubation period.  The Laysan albatross (Phoebastris [sic] immutabilis) is a large pelagic bird with a long incubation period.  The purpose of this study was to document the differentiation phase with the aim of ascertaining the impact of a lengthened incubation on embryonic development.  Eighty-two previously collected albatross embryos were examined, measured, and staged.  The albatross was found to develop more slowly than smaller birds, with a rate similar to other long-incubating birds.   Legs and wings grow at similar rates but exhibit variation in growth among their anatomical components. While the albatross embryos shared some morphological stages with chickens, they were more similar to ducks and pelicans.  Special features of the albatross not shared with the Gallianserae (chickens and ducks) included an alligator-like curved tail, narial tubes, and a cloacal bulge.  Further examination of other larger pelagic birds with long incubation periods are needed to determine the uniqueness of the Laysan albatross embryonic development.  Although much embryonic phase growth was documented in the postnatal period, little is known about the later, fetal phase in Laysan albatross.  Future studies should involve examination of later (post day 32) fetuses.”

Laysan Albatross egg, photograph by Pacific Rim Conservation


Rehorek, S.J., Smith, T.D. & Beeching, S.C. 2016.  Early development and differentiation of the Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis (Rothschild, 1893): Procellariiformes).  Journal of Morphology DOI: 10.1002/jmor.20572.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 July 2016

Job opportunity: work on marine Important Bird Areas with BirdLife International

BirdLife International is looking for someone to lead strategic advocacy in regional and international policy processes to secure improved conservation outcomes for marine Important Bird Areas (mIBA) and Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA), including designation of marine protected areas.

“This exciting new role will play a key role in advancing conservation outcomes for seabirds, by providing strategic advice to the BirdLife International Marine Programme and delivering effective high-level advocacy in regional and international policy fora.

The ideal candidate will have: • Strong understanding of international environmental policy processes. • Demonstrated experience in international policy processes related to nature conservation, fisheries and/or the marine environment. • Experience with policy advocacy, lobbying and negotiation. • Experience in writing reports/position papers relating to policy and MEAs. • The ability to convey scientific/technical information in a clear and concise manner to a range of audiences. • The right to work in the UK.”

Click here for more information.

Balearic Shearwater Pep Arcos

An ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwater at sea; photograph by Pep Arcos

Applications should include a covering letter summarising the applicant’s suitability for the position, a detailed CV and contact details of two referees known to the applicant in a professional capacity to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  The closing date is 14 July 2016.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 July 2016

Review: The 2015 Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland

The 2015 Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland is the fourth edition of a regional account of threatened avian species for the three named countries within southern Africa.  Other than for the first Red Data Book, published in 1976, South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands have also been included.

As for its predecessors, the latest Red Data Book for the major part of southern Africa is based on the IUCN threatened categories and criteria for assessment, but at a regional, rather than at a global scale.

Nine of 16 ACAP-listed albatross and petrel species covered by the book breed within the region only at the Prince Edward Islands in the southern Indian Ocean, which are legally protected as a Special Nature Reserve, with the added status as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and is surrounded by a large Marine Protected Area.  Because these species breed at only two regional localities (Marion Island and Prince Edward Island) they have all been categorized as threatened or Near Threatened.  Additionally, although improvements have occurred largely through the work of BirdLife South Africa’s Albatross Task Force (click here) they remain at risk to at-sea mortality from longline and trawl fisheries, as well as recently shown from introduced House Mice Mus musculus on Marion Island (click here).

A further seven species of ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels that breed outside the region but face threats at sea within it are included.  Each of the 16 regionally breeding and non-breeding species has an individual account of two to four pages which includes a detailed and annotated map that shows breeding locations and at-sea distributions, and in most cases a pleasing pen and ink drawing of the bird by Fransie Peacock.

All but four of the 16 ACAP-listed species keep their global threatened status at the regional level.  A notably difference is for the globally Near Threatened (since 2013) Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris (incorrectly cited in the regional RDB as T. melanophrysclick here), which is accorded a regional threatened status of Endangered, due to fishery-induced mortality within the Benguela Upwelling System off the Atlantic coast of southern Africa.  A further error for this species is it being listed as globally Endangered (as it was in 2012) in its account, although correctly as Near Threatened in the index on page 26.  The globally Near Threatened Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea, previously affected by the now exterminated feral Domestic Cats Felis catus but now at risk to mice on Marion Island, is accorded a regional status of Vulnerable.  However, this species could be due for relisting to Vulnerable at the global level in a future revision (click here).

Black-browed Albatross, photograph by Oli Yates

Grey Petrel at Marion Island, photograph by Peter Ryan

Well referenced, well written and well laid out this new regional RDB is an essential addition to any southern African ornithological library.  However, for those working internationally on the conservation of procellariform tubenoses, and more particularly with the relatively few ACAP-listed species covered, an on-line version (as exists at the global level – click here for albatrosses) would be a boon, both for convenience and to save on international postage for what is a weighty book.

With thanks to Martin Taylor.


Barnes, K.N. (Ed.). 2000.  The Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.  Randburg: BirdLife South Africa.  169 pp.

Brooke, R.K. 1984.  South African Red Data Book – Birds.  South African National Scientific Programmes Report  No. 97.  213 pp.

Siegfried, W.R., Frost, P.G.H., Cooper, & Kemp, A.C. 1976.  South African Red Data Book – Aves.  South African National Scientific Programmes Report No. 7.  108 pp.

Taylor, M.R., Peacock, F. & Wanless, R.M. (Eds) 2015.  The 2015 Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.  Johannesburg: BirdLife South Africa.  464 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 July 2016

Heart all aflutter? Streaked Shearwaters submit to electrocardiograms for science

Alice Carravieri (Centre d’Études Biologiques de Chizé, Université de La Rochelle, France) and colleagues have published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology Ecological and Evolutionary Approaches on physiological experiments conducted on free-living Streaked Shearwaters Calonectris leucomelas.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) provide noninvasive measures of the relative activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which promotes self-maintenance and restoration, and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which prepares an animal for danger. The PNS decreases HR, whereas the SNS increases HR.   The PNS and SNS also contribute to oscillations in heartbeat intervals at different frequencies, producing HRV.  HRV promotes resilience and adjustment capacity in the organism to intrinsic and extrinsic changes.  Measuring HRV can reveal the condition and emotional state of animals, including aspects of their stress physiology.  Until now, the functioning of the PNS and SNS and their relationship with other physiological systems have been studied almost exclusively in humans.  In this study, we tested their influence on HR and HRV for the first time in a wild-caught seabird, the streaked shearwater (Calonectris leucomelas).  We analyzed electrocardiograms collected from birds carrying externally attached HR loggers and that received injections that pharmacologically blocked the PNS, the SNS, or both, as well as those that received a saline (sham) injection or no injection (control).   The PNS strongly dominated modulation of HR and also HRV across all frequencies, whereas the SNS contributed only slightly to low-frequency oscillations. The saline injection itself acted as a stressor, causing a dramatic drop in PNS activity in HRV and an increase in HR, though PNS activity continued to dominate even during acute stress.  Dominant PNS activity is expected for long-lived species, which should employ physiological strategies that minimize somatic deterioration coming from stress.”

Streaked Shearwater 

Streaked Shearwater


Carravieri, A., Müller, M.S., Yoda, K., Hayama, S. & Yamamoto, M. 2016.  Dominant parasympathetic modulation of heart rate and heart rate variability in a wild-caught seabird.  Physiological and Biochemical Zoology Ecological and Evolutionary Approaches  DOI: 10.1086/686894.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 July 2016

The breeding biology of the Macaronesian Shearwater gets studied

Ana Isabel Fagundes (Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal) and colleagues have published in the journal Zoology on aspects of the breeding biology of the Macaronesian Shearwater Puffinus lherminieri baroli.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The breeding success of burrow-nesting seabirds may be influenced by both nest site characteristics and oceanographic conditions influencing food availability at sea.  In this study we describe the breeding biology of the winter-breeding Macaronesian shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri baroli), including nest site characteristics and interspecific competition.  We also evaluate the possible effects of changing oceanographic conditions on breeding phenology and breeding success.  The study was carried out over two breeding seasons on two islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, Cima Islet and Selvagem Grande.  Oceanographic characteristics differed between years.  On a regional scale, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index was low and negative in 2011, and on a local scale, birds used areas with significantly lower values of chlorophyll a concentration and significantly higher values of sea surface temperature anomalies.  Hatching success was higher in 2012 than in 2011.  At both colonies, egg cracking was the main cause of hatching failure, but in 2011 several eggs on Selvagem Grande were deserted.  In 2012 birds laid earlier and chicks had longer wings and were heavier.  At both colonies, nests that were deeper, were sheltered from prevailing winds and had small chambers and a soil substrate had a higher probability of being used successfully by the birds.  Nests occupied solely by Macaronesian shearwaters were much deeper and had less volume than nests shared with other species.  Our study suggests that the breeding success of Macaronesian shearwaters is strongly related to nest site characteristics and that at-sea environmental conditions exert a strong influence on reproductive parameters, with birds breeding in a poor year (evaluated in terms of lower marine productivity) laying much later and their chicks growing at a slower rate than in a good year.  The influence of nest site characteristics and environmental conditions may be very important for understanding the breeding ecology of Procellariiformes and may help explain the negative population trend of Macaronesian shearwaters.”

Macaronesian Shearwater Luis Ferreira 

Macaronesian Shearwater, photograph by Luis Ferreira


Fagundes, A.I., Ramos, J.A., Ramos, U., Medeiros, R. & Paiva, V.H. 2016.  Breeding biology of a winter-breeding procellariiform in the North Atlantic, the Macaronesian shearwater Puffinus lherminieri baroli.  Zoology doi:10.1016/j.zool.2016.05.014.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 June 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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