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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ACAP releases 24 posters of two Critically Endangered albatrosses to advertise this year’s World Albatross Day on 19 June

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A Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross pair, Gonydale, Gough Island, United Kingdom; photograph and design by Michelle Risi

Following on from last year’s World Albatross Day theme of “Eradicating Island Pests”, ACAP’s chosen theme for 2021 is “Ensuring Albatross-friendly Fisheries”.  The large number of albatrosses and petrels killed by fisheries was the main driving force for the establishment of ACAP two decades ago and addressing this continuing conservation problem remains an important part of ACAP’s ongoing work.  In support of World Albatross Day ACAP intends to highlight one or more of the 22 albatross species each year with posters and other artworks.

The featured species chosen for 2021 are the two most threatened albatrosses, both categorized by IUCN as Critically Endangered (defined as facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild).  They are the Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena of the United Kingdom’s Gough and Inaccessible Islands and the Waved Albatross Phoebastria irrorata of Ecuador’s Islas Española and La Plata.  Both species are at risk to fishery activities as described in their ACAP Species Summaries.

The 24 high-resolution posters of the two species were designed by Michelle Risi, a member of ACAP’s World Albatross Day Group.  The posters, three for each species, have been produced with English, French, Portuguese and Spanish texts.  Whereas Portuguese is not an official ACAP language as are the other three, Portuguese-speaking Brazil is a long-standing and active Party to the Agreement and its waters are visited by a number of ACAP-listed species, including the Tristan Albatross.

The posters can be freely downloaded, printed out and shared but ACAP requests it be acknowledged in their use for conservation purposes.  They should not be used for financial gain.

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Two Critically Endangered Waved Albatrosses display together, Isla Española, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador; photograph by Laurie Smaglick Johnson

Click here for the four language versions of the ‘WAD2021’ logo.

With thanks to Laurie Smaglick Johnson and Michelle Risi.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 February 2021

Climate can change size of Black‐vented Shearwaters

Black vented Shearwater 

 Black-vented Shearwater

Cecilia Soldatini (Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación, Superior de Ensenada ‐ Unidad La Paz, Baja California Sur, México) and colleagues have published in the journal Ibis on how mass and wind length of Black‐vented Shearwaters Puffinus opisthomelas (Near Threatened) relate to climate variability.

The short note’s abstract follows:

“Recent climatic variation has led to a change in size or mass in some species.  The Black‐vented Shearwater Puffinus opisthomelas is endemic to the California Current System, a highly variable system, giving us cues on the effects of interannual variability on predators.  Here, we report the results of a comparison of biometrics measurement in the short term, four years, with different environmental conditions.  We found that environmental variability has a direct effect on the body condition of the species, affecting not only body mass, but also wing length, with shorter wings as a carry‐over effect of adverse conditions.”

Reference:

Soldatini, C., Rosas Hernandez, M.P., Albores‐Barajas, Y.V., Bambini, G., Munguia‐Vega, A., Giambalvo, G. & Dell’omo, G. 2021.  Carry‐over effects of environmental stochasticity of the California Current on body condition and wing length of breeding Black‐vented Shearwaters (Puffinus opisthomelas).  Ibis doi.org/10.1111/ibi.12919.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 January 2020

ACAP Breeding Site No. 96. A single pair of Antipodean Albatrosses breeds on New Zealand’s Pitt Island

Antipodean chick Pitt Island Dec 2020 3

Antipodean Albatross chick, Mount Hakepa, Pitt Island, December 2020, photograph from the Chatham Island New Zealand Facebook Page

A single pair of globally Endangered Antipodean Albatrosses Diomedea antipodensis, presumed to be of the nominate race, breeds on Pitt Island in New Zealand’s Chatham Islands group.  A chick approaching fledging was present in an area of low fern on the shoulder of Mount Hakepa in late December last year and is expected to fledge this month.

Pitt Island 2 Flower Pott Lodge 

Pitt Island Flower Pott Lodge

Views of Pitt Island, photographs from the Flower Pott Lodge Facebook Page

Pitt Island (6190 ha) is the second largest island in the group; it has a small human population of around 40 persons with farming, fishing, hunting and tourism being commercial activities.  Mount Hakepa, 230-m high and of volcanic origin, lies close to the sea on the island’s east coast and is in private ownership.  The island lies some 700 km north of Antipodes Island, the closest breeding site of the species.

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The 2020/21 Mount Hakepa Antipodean Albatross chick viewed by tourists, photograph from the Flower Pott Lodge Facebook Page

Antipodean Albatross Jan 2021 Lou Sanson DOC

The 2020/21 Mount Hakepa chick close to fledging, photograph from the Department of Conservation Facebook Page

Antipodean Albatross chick Waipaua Jan 2005 Nathan McNally

The first chick known to have fledged on Pitt Island, photographed on 10 January 2005 at the Waipaua Scenic Reserve by Nathan McNally

Early breeding records of Antipodean Albatrosses on Pitt Island have been summarized by Colin Miskelly and colleagues: “A subadult male Antipodean wandering albatross was found in Waipaua Scenic Reserve on Pitt Island in May 2002, and what may have been the same bird was ashore at the same site in 2004.  An egg was found at this site in Apr 2004 and the resulting chick fledged in Jan 2005.  What is presumed to have been a different pair was found with an egg on Mount Hakepa, Pitt I, in early Jan 2006; their egg hatched in Apr 2006, and the chick fledged about 7 Jan 2007.  What is presumed to be the same pair also nested successfully at the Mount Hakepa site in 2008/2009, with the chick fledging on 6 Jan 2009.”

A displaying pair of Antipodean Albatrosses videoed in March 2019 on Pitt Island has been posted on the Flower Pott Lodge Facebook Page.  A similar-looking pair was photographed and videoed displaying ashore in March and April 2018 and three were reported present on Mount Hakepa, with breeding taking place, in June 2017.

Most of the island is in private ownership made up of seven farms; roughly a third is managed as reserves by the New Zealand Department of Conservation.  The island supports populations of feral cats, pigs and sheep, as well as domestic cattle, sheep and dogs.  Feral rams are trophy hunted.  The breeding Antipodean Albatrosses on Pitt Island have been protected by shooting pigs, trapping cats and erecting electric fences around nests.

Single Antipodean Albatross pairs (possibly the same birds) bred unsuccessfully on the main Chatham Island in three consecutive seasons from 2003 to 2005.

With thanks to Nathan McNally and Colin Miskelly.

References:

Aikman, H. & Miskelly, C. 2004.  Birds of the Chatham Islands.  Wellington: Department of Conservation.  116 pp.

Bell, B.D. & Robertson, C.J.R. 1994.  Seabirds of the Chatham Islands.  BirdLife Conservation Series No. 1.  pp. 219-228.

Houston, D. 2013/2018.  Another wandering albatross chick raised on Pitt Island.  Chatham Islands, New Zealand.

Miskelly, C.M., Bester, A.J. & Bell, M. 2006.  Additions to the Chatham Islands’ bird list, with further records of vagrant and colonising bird species. Notornis.53: 213-228.

Miskelly, C.M., McNally, N., Seymour, J., Gregory-Hunt, D. & Lanauze, J. 2008.  Antipodean wandering albatrosses (Diomedea antipodensis) colonising the Chatham Islands.  Notornis 55: 89-95.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 January 2021

Using bird-borne radar to understand interactions between Wandering Albatrosses and fishing vessels

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At-sea tracks of Wandering Albatross fledglings and adults on sabbatical from Bird Island.  Proximity of a bird to a vessel indicated by radar is shown by coloured dots

The Seabird Sentinels project, which aims to assess bycatch risk of globally Vulnerable Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans from South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* using bird-borne radar, is up and running for its second season.  Twenty satellite-linked GPS-radar tags produced by Sextant Technology (New Zealand) were deployed on Wandering Albatross chicks at Bird Island in mid-December last year.  The juveniles have now fledged but all are currently staying within the south-west Atlantic.  Another 15 tags have been deployed on adults on sabbatical, i.e. birds that have bred previously but are not breeding in the current season.

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A Wandering Albatross chick on Bird Island, photograph from Richard Phillips

“The overall objective of this project is to link habitat preference, at-sea activity patterns and detections from novel bird-borne radars to quantify interactions of tracked wandering albatrosses with legal and IUU [Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated] and fishing vessels.  This will greatly improve previous coarse-scale analyses of overlap with fishing effort to clearly identify areas and periods of highest susceptibility to bycatch for different life-history classes (age, sex, breeding status).  This is an innovative project and has the potential to be a “game-changer” given the capacity for identifying IUU vessels from bird-borne radar, and the potential future extension of the approach to other species” (click here).

 The research project is being led by the British Antarctic Survey in partnership with BirdLife International and is funded by the Darwin PLUS scheme.  Find more information on the BirdLife International Marine Programme’s work to save seabirds and their habitats around the world here.

Read earlier posts in ACAP Latest News in using albatross-borne radar to track fishing vessels.

With thanks to Richard Phillips, British Antarctic Survey.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 January 2021

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

George and Geraldine, Short-tailed Albatrosses on Midway, hatch their latest egg

George Geraldine Jan 2021

The 2021 chick is revealed by George, photograph by Jon Brack, Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, January 2021

and watch the video clip

George and Geraldine make up the sole pair of Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatrosses Diomedea albatrus on Midway Atoll’s Sand Island.  They commenced breeding on the island in 2018 after first meeting up on the island in 2016 and have attempted breeding every year since.  Apart from a female-female pair on Kure Atoll they are currently the only breeding Short-tails on USA territory.  News is now in that they have hatched their latest egg "The short-tailed albatross pair … laid their egg on October 28 [2020].  Since then, biologists have had a trail camera trained on the nest, hoping to catch the first images of the chick hatching.  Biologists believe the egg hatched on January 1.”

To date, George and Geraldine have successfully fledged two chicks on Midway; good parents, so a third fledgling later this year may well be expected.  Read more on the history of the pair.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 January 2021