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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Wisdom, 63-year-old Laysan Albatross, hatches her latest egg

Wisdom the famous 63-year-old Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis of the Midway Atoll Wildlife Refuge has successfully hatched her egg on 4 February (click here).

“As the world’s oldest known bird in the wild, Wisdom is an iconic symbol of inspiration and hope for all seabird species” said Dan Clark, refuge manager for Midway.

Wisdom tends her latest chick, photograph by Ann Bell/USFWS

She laid her latest egg on 29 November 2013 - exactly a year and one day since she laid her egg in 2012.  Wisdom is thought to be the oldest banded wild bird in the World and has bred successfully every year on Sand Island in the refuge since at least 2008 (click here).

Wisdom is recognized by her red colour band Z333.   She was banded as an adult in 1956.  Last year her mate was marked with colour band G000, and he is back again for the 2013/14 season.  Remarkably Wisdom was videoed last year in the act of laying her egg (click here).

To read more ACAP news items about the exploits of Wisdom, and of the children’s book, mascot, poem, Facebook page and artwork she has inspired click here.

For more photos opf Wisom's recent breeding efforts click here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 February 2014

Bold females and shy males. Which personality is best for a Black-browed Albatross?

Samantha Patrick and Henri Weimerskirch (Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, France) write in the open-access journal PLoS ONE on how personality (measured on a bold-shy scale) is related to foraging behaviour in ACAP-listed Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“While personality differences in animals are defined as consistent behavioural variation between individuals, the widely studied field of foraging specialisation in marine vertebrates has rarely been addressed within this framework.  However there is much overlap between the two fields, both aiming to measure the causes and consequences of consistent individual behaviour.  Here for the first time we use both a classic measure of personality, the response to a novel object, and an estimate of foraging strategy, derived from GPS data, to examine individual personality differences in black browed albatross and their consequences for fitness.  First, we examine the repeatability of personality scores and link these to variation in foraging habitat.  Bolder individuals forage nearer the colony, in shallower regions, whereas shyer birds travel further from the colony, and fed in deeper oceanic waters.  Interestingly, neither personality score predicted a bird’s overlap with fisheries.  Second, we show that both personality scores are correlated with fitness consequences, dependent on sex and year quality.  Our data suggest that shyer males and bolder females have higher fitness, but the strength of this relationship depends on year quality.  Females who forage further from the colony have higher breeding success in poor quality years, whereas males foraging close to the colony always have higher fitness.  Together these results highlight the potential importance of personality variation in seabirds and that the fitness consequences of boldness and foraging strategy may be highly sex dependent.”

Black-browed Albatrosses, photograph by Graham Robertson

Click here for a news article on this and a related publication.


Patrick, S.C. & Weimerskirch, H. 2014.  Personality, foraging and fitness consequences in a long lived seabird.  PLoS ONE 9(2): e87269. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087269.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 February 2014

Do Antipodean Albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters and carrion beetles get together on New Zealand’s Adams Island?

Imogen Bassett (School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, New Zealand) and colleagues write in the journal Polar Biology on invertebrates associated with seabirds, including the ACAP-listed and Vulnerable Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis gibsoni and Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus, on Adams Island in the Auckland Islands group.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Nesting seabirds import marine-derived nutrients into terrestrial food webs, affecting invertebrate abundance and community composition directly, through provision of decaying animal matter as a food source, and indirectly through effects on vegetation and prey abundance.  Invertebrates have shown strong responses to seabird presence in some, but not all, ecosystems previously studied.  In contrast to mainland range contractions, New Zealand’s subantarctic islands retain abundant seabird populations.  We sampled ground invertebrates on mammal-free Adams Island, using pitfall traps.  We surveyed sites in two vegetation types (tussock and forest) with either no nesting seabirds or nesting colonies of Gibson’s wandering albatross, sooty shearwaters or white-headed petrels.  We collected 11 invertebrate orders and identified 20 Coleoptera species or higher taxa.  The carrion beetle, Paracatops antipoda comprised over 50 % of Coleoptera individuals collected.  P. antipoda was more abundant in forest than tussock and was positively associated with sooty shearwaters and negatively associated with white-headed petrels when compared with bird-free sites using a Poisson generalized linear model.  Sooty shearwaters were also associated with elevated abundance of several herbivorous and invertebrate decomposer taxa.  Nesting seabirds do appear to influence invertebrate community composition on Adams Island, but the direction of this effect appears to be taxa-specific.  Further sampling with spatial replication of colonies is required to determine the extent to which these apparent taxa-specific responses are consistent across colonies and habitats.”

Antipodean Albatrosses on Adams Island, photograph by Colin O'Donnell


Bassett, I.E., Elliott, G.P., Walker, K.J., Thorpe, S. & Biggs, J.R. 2014.  Are nesting seabirds important determinants of invertebrate community composition on subantarctic Adams Island?  Polar Biology DOI 10.1007/s00300-014-1454-5.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 February 2014

Crossing the Line: a Waved Albatross goes north to Costa Rica

The normal at-sea distribution of the Critically Endangered Waved Albatross Phoebastria irrorata takes birds southward from the equatorial Galapagos Islands to the continental waters of southern Ecuador and Peru.

On 9 January 2004 Keiner Berrocal Chacón accompanied his father fishing when they encountered a Waved Albatross at sea in the Gulf of Nicoya “about 15 miles” from Cabo Blanco, Costa Rica at roughly 9.5°N (click here).

The Costa Rican Waved Albatross

Photograph by Keiner Berrocal

The first record of the Waved Albatross (and of an albatross of any species) for Costa Rica was of single bird seen flying close to Montagné Islet, Isla del Coco (Cocos Island) on 7 May 1993, but without physical evidence such as a photograph.  Cocos Island, a national park, World Heritage Site and Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, lies 550 km offshore at 5.5°N so the recent record is the first for Costa Rica’s continental waters, and the first for the country with photographic confirmation.

The species has been very occasionally recorded north of the Equator off the coasts of Columbia (one specimen) and Panama.  The latest Costa Rican record thus appears to be the most northerly for the species.

Selected Literature:

Acevedo-Gutiérrez, A. 1994.  First records of three nesting birds and species at Isla del Coco, Costa Rica.  Revista  de Biología Tropical 42: 762.

Tickell, W.L.N., 1996.  Galapagos Albatrosses at sea.  Sea Swallow 45: 83-85.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 February 2014

ACAP Breeding Site No. 63. Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, home of a Laysan Albatross population

The Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge (KPNWR) was established on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in 1985 to preserve its seabird breeding colonies.  It was expanded in 1988 to include Crater Hill and Mokolea Point.  The publically-accessible 82-ha refuge with its steep cliffs is home to the historic Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse which sits on the northernmost point of Kauai (click here).  The recently restored lighthouse was built in 1913 as a navigational aid for commercial shipping between Asia and Hawaii.  Half a million people have visited the refuge and its visitor centre and gift shop annually in past years, but recent budgetary constraints have restricted visits to five days a week.

Kilauea Point and its historic lighthouse


Looking east from the point along the rocky coastline, Photograph by Bob Dowd

Approximately 115 pairs of Near Threatened and ACAP-listed Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis breed within the wildlife refuge.  Their breeding site is not visible from the public viewing areas, although birds may be seen flying offshore.

Red-footed Boobies Sula sula, Red-tailed Phaethon rubricauda and White-tailed P. lepturus Tropicbirds and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus pacificus breed within the refuge, while Brown S. leucogaster Boobies and Great Frigatebirds Fregata minor are regular visitors (click here).  Endemic and Endangered Newell's Shearwaters P. newelli also breed within the refuge in small numbers in a non-public area.  The colony was initially created following introduction attempts utilizing cross-fostering of translocated chicks with Wedge-tails, and has expanded in recent years by the addition of a social-attraction project (click here).


"In 2013 there were eight confirmed breeding pairs of Newell’s Shearwaters within the KPNWR and six ultimately fledged a chick.  Auditory surveys carried out at the site by the Kauaʻi Endangered Seabird Recovery Project (KESRP) have also located several more potential breeding pairs and areas of ground-calling activity."

A fence around the perimeter of the refuge provides some protection to its breeding seabirds against the larger predators.  Additionally, the Nihoku (Crater Hill) Ecosystem Restoration Project aims to protect and restore the native environment of Nihoku within the wildlife refuge “through integration of science, natural resources management, and environmental education”.  A 728-m predator-proof fence is planned to enclose 3.1 ha to prepare the Nihoku site for translocatedNewell’s Shearwaters by keeping out feral cats, dogs and rats.  The site would also provide a safe haven for this species if Small Indian Mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus became established on the island (click here and here).

Steep cliffs at Kilauea Point

A fledging Laysan Albatross flies at sunrise with the lighthouse in the distance

Photograph by Bob Dowd

The island’s population of Laysan Albatrosses or Mōlī has been growing since the late 1970s when the first albatrosses returned to Kauai after an absence of many centuries.   With an island total of 271 pairs given for 2008 (click here), the remaining birds are scattered along a roughly 18-kilometre stretch of Kauai’s north shore, from Princeville (c. 40 pairs) to Anahola.  Sixty to eighty pairs attempt to breed on the south-west shore within the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands (click here).  However, at this last locality the Laysan Albatrosses are a collision hazard to aircraft and so their eggs are removed each year; some of those deemed fertile by candling have been given to foster parents elsewhere on the island, including within the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, as a conservation measure (click here).

Laysan Albatrosses get together in Princeville on Kauai, photograph by Bob Dowd

With thanks to Bob Dowd and an anonymous donor for the photographs and Andre Rayne for information.

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.

Byrd, G.V., Sincock, J.L., Telfer, T.C., Moriarty, D.I. & Brady, B.G. 1984.  A cross-fostering experiment with Newell's race of Manx Shearwater.  Journal of Wildlife Management 48: 163-168.

Arata, J.A., Sievert, P.R. & Naughton, M.B. 2009.  Status Assessment of Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses, North Pacific Ocean, 1923-2000.  U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5131.  Reston: U.S. Geological Survey.

Naughton, M.B., Romano, M.D. & Zimmerman, T.S. 2007.  A Conservation Action Plan for Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) and Laysan Albatross (P. immutabilis).  Version 1.0.

Pyle, R.L. & Pyle, P. 2009.  The Birds of the Hawaiian Islands: Occurrence, History, Distribution, and Status.  Honolulu: B.P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu.

Vanderwerf, E.A. 2012.  Albatrosses.  In:  Hawaiian Bird Conservation Action Plan.  Honolulu: Pacific Rim Conservation.  11 pp.

Young, L.C., VanderWerf, E.A., Mitchell, C., Yuen, E., Miller, C.J., Smith, D.G. & Swenson, C. 2012.  The use of Predator Proof Fencing as a Management Tool in the Hawaiian Islands: a Case Study of Ka`ena Point Natural Area Reserve.  Technical Report No. 180.  Honolulu: The Hawai`i-Pacific Islands Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit & Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, University of Hawai`i.  82 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 February 2014