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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At least 10 species of ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels are impacted by marine debris according to a literature review

Sarah Gall and Richard Thompson (Marine Biology & Ecology Research Centre, Plymouth University, United Kingdom) have reviewed the impact of debris on marine life, including seabirds, in the Marine Pollution BulletinTheir literature review shows that 10 species of ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels, notably the Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis, on the IUCN threatened or near-threatened lists have been reported in the literature as being impacted by marine debris through entanglement or ingestion.  However, it is known that several of the remaining 20 ACAP-listed species, including the Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, have also been impacted in this way.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Marine debris is listed among the major perceived threats to biodiversity, and is cause for particular concern due to its abundance, durability and persistence in the marine environment.  An extensive literature search reviewed the current state of knowledge on the effects of marine debris on marine organisms.  340 original publications reported encounters between organisms and marine debris and 693 species.  Plastic debris accounted for 92% of encounters between debris and individuals. Numerous direct and indirect consequences were recorded, with the potential for sublethal effects of ingestion an area of considerable uncertainty and concern.  Comparison to the IUCN Red List highlighted that at least 17% of species affected by entanglement and ingestion were listed as threatened or near threatened.  Hence where marine debris combines with other anthropogenic stressors it may affect populations, trophic interactions and assemblages.”

Female Tristan Albatross Incubating on Gough Island, photograph by Marienne de Villiers

With thanks to Phelisa Hans for information.


Gall, S.C. & Thompson, R.C. 2015.  The impact of debris on marine life.  Marine Pollution Bulletin doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.12.041.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 February 2015

How much does experience help? Foraging by Cory’s Shearwaters

Fredrik Haug (Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal) and colleagues have published this year in the journal Marine Biology on foraging differences in Cory’s Shearwaters Calonectris borealis breeding on Portugal’s Berlenga Island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Experience is believed to be an important factor determining the foraging success of animals, but there is limited knowledge on how foraging tactics differ among individuals, and on how individuals develop efficient foraging strategies.  Pelagic seabirds are some of the longest living organisms, and in several species, breeding is deferred far beyond their physical maturity.  The complex foraging skills needed to successfully rear a young is considered the most likely explanation for this life trait, making seabirds particularly interesting for the investigation of how foraging skills differ and develop through their life span.  In our study, the spatial distribution and foraging tactics of experienced and inexperienced males of a Procellariiform seabird species, the Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris borealis) breeding on the Portuguese continental shelf, were compared along three consecutive breeding seasons with ameliorating environmental conditions (from 2010 towards 2012).  Kernel overlaps of foraging areas and habitat modelling demonstrated that while experienced males showed high fidelity to shallow feeding grounds, inexperienced birds were more explorative and relied more on less-productive pelagic areas.  Our results seem to support the prediction that differences between experienced and inexperienced individuals are enhanced by food scarcity.  In fact, there was a higher spatial, trophic and behavioural segregation between both groups when environmental conditions were poor, which progressively diminished with improving environmental conditions.  Still, we cannot rule out the fact that inexperienced birds might be gaining experience with each breeding season and thus honing their foraging skills towards those of experienced individuals.”


Cory's Shearwaters, photograph by Paulo Catry


Haug, F.D., Paiva, V.H., Werner, A.C. & Ramos, J.A. 2015.  Foraging by experienced and inexperienced Cory’s shearwater along a 3-year period of ameliorating foraging conditions.  Marine Biology 162: 649-660.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 February 2015

Satellite-tracking Southern Giant Petrels from Isla Arce and Isla Gran Robredo, Argentina

Gabriela Blanco (Centro Nacional Patagónico, Puerto Madryn, Argentina) and colleagues have written in the journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science on satellite tracking Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus at sea off the coast of Argentina.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“To study habitat use and at-sea movements of southern giant petrels (SGP) during non-breeding period, we deployed 15 satellite transmitters (six adults, nine juveniles) at Isla Arce and Isla Gran Robredo colonies in Patagonia, Argentina.  Birds were instrumented during 81.4 ± 37 days.  Adult birds used 74% of the Argentine shelf concentrating mainly at the shelf break, middle shelf waters, and the surroundings of the colony.  After fledging, juveniles spread to the Argentine, Uruguayan and Brazilian shelves within the South Atlantic.  Adults alternated at-sea excursions (12 ± 5 days) with periods at the colony of 3 ± 0.3 days.  Contrarily, juveniles moved first to the shelf break and then traveled [sic] northwards reaching the south of Brazil.  There was some spatial overlap between age classes, but only during the first 30 days after juveniles had fledged; thereafter there was not overlap between the areas used by both age classes.  The Argentine shelf is widely used by different species offering a suitable environment for foraging; this may be why adults SGP from Patagonian colonies spend all year-round within the Argentine shelf.  The identification of used areas of non-breeding SGP fills a gap in the species knowledge contributing not only to the preservation the species, but also to the management of marine areas globally recognized as important for many other Procellariiformes.”

Southern Giant Petrel, photograph by Juan Pablo Seco Pon

Click here to access a related paper by the senior author.


Blanco, G.S.  & Quintana, F. 2014.  Differential use of the Argentine shelf by wintering adults and juveniles southern giant petrels,Macronectes giganteus, from Patagonia.    Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 149: 151-159.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 February 2015

Seascapes used by Southern Giant Petrels from breeding colonies in Patagonian Argentina

Gabriel Blanco (Centro Nacional Patagónico, Puerto Madryn, Argentina) and colleagues have published in the journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science on the at-sea distribution of adult and juvenile Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus from Isla Arce and Isla Gran Robredo.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The characterization of the seascape used by marine top predators provides a wide perspective of pelagic habitat use and it is necessary to understand the functioning of marine systems  The goal of this study was to characterize the oceanographic and biological features of marine areas used by adult and first year juvenile southern giant petrels (SGP, Macronectes giganteus) from northern Patagonian colonies (Isla Arce and Gran Robredo) during the austral fall and winter (2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008).  The marine environment exploited by the SGP was characterized using sea surface temperature (SST), SST gradients, chlorophyll-a concentration, water depth, oceanographic regimes, and ocean surface winds.  In addition, the biological seascape was defined by considering the distribution of squid during the months of study.  Juveniles SGP exploited a wide range of environments focusing mainly on productive neritic waters using a variety of oceanographic regimes.  Juveniles were exposed to eutrophic and enriched waters, probably because of the frequent presence of thermal fronts in their utilization areas.  Adults' environments lacked of thermal fronts remaining the majority of their time within the oceanographic regime “Continental Shelf”, in water depths of 100–200 m, exploiting mesotrophic and eutrophic environments, and remaining in areas of known food resources related to the presence of squid.  For the most part, juveniles were exposed to westerly winds, which may have helped them in their initial flight to the shelf break, east of the colony.  Wintering adults SGP also explored areas characterized by westerly winds but this did not play a primary role in the selection of their residence areas.  Juveniles during their first year at sea have to search for food exploring a variety of unknown environments.  During their search, they remained in productive environments associated to fronts and probably also associated to fisheries operating in their foraging areas.  The understanding of pelagic birds' habitat selection and preferences through the year is crucial for the monitoring of anthropogenic impacts over these species.  Further studies should focus on the prediction of variables that determine the distribution of these species though the year and during different life stages.”

Southern Giant Petrel at sea, photograph by Warwick Barnes


Blanco, G.S., Pisoni, J.P. & Quintana, F. 2015.  Characterization of the seascape used by juvenile and wintering adult Southern Giant Petrels from Patagonia Argentina.  Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 153: 135-144.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 February 2015

UPDATED. Vagrant Grey-headed Albatrosses visit Black-browed Albatross colonies in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*

Mollymawk albatrosses Thalassarche spp. occasionally turn up as vagrants on islands in the Southern Ocean, usually in breeding colonies of congeners, as reported from time to time in ACAP Latest News (click here).  Some of the birds occupy nests and there a few examples of pairing with the species breeding in the visited colony.

Mollymawk species recorded in this way include Black-browed T. melanophris (Marion Island), Indian Yellow-nosed T. carteri (Marion), Salvin’s T. salvini, (Diego Ramirez, Gough and Kerguelen) and White-capped T. steadi (Bird (South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)*), Prince Edward).  The Grey-headed Albatross T. chrysostoma has also been reported in the literature as a vagrant in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*, with a banded individual on West Point Island seen every year from 1952 to 1956, and another record in 1969.

Eight more recent records of vagrant Grey-headed Albatrosses from the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)* are reported here by island locality.

Beauchêne Island:  November 2001 occupying a nest on the edge of a large Black-browed Albatross colony (A. Black), c. 2005 and October 2010 (G. Munro) and 18 December 2010 (A.C. Wolfaardt); 2010 records at two different localities among breeding Black-browed Albatrosses.

Beauchêne Island, 18 December 2010, photograph by Anton Wolfaardt

Bird Island:  October 2005 (S. Crofts).

Bird Island, October 2005, photograph by Sarah Crofts

New Island:  1990s, among Black-brow nests (T. Chater) and 16 December 2010, flying over a Black-brow colony (J.P. Granadeiro).


New Island, 16 December 2010, photograph by José Pedro Granadeiros

Steeple Jason Island:  2010 or 2011, on edge of Black-brow colony (S. Crofts) and 20 January 2015 on empty Black-brow nest (V. Collier & M. Reeves).

Steeple Jason Island, 20 January 2015, photographs by Vicky Collier

With thanks to Andy Black, Paulo Catry, Tom Chater, Vicky Collier, Sarah Crofts, José Pedro Granadeiro, Grant Munro, Mickey Reeves and Anton Wolfaardt for information and photographs.

Selected Literature:

Woods, R.W. 1988.  Guide to Birds of the Falkland Islands.  Oswestry: Anthony Nelson.  256 pp.

Woods, R.W. & Woods, A. 1997.  Atlas of Breeding Birds of the Falkland Islands.  Oswestry: Anthony Nelson.  190 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 February 2015, updated 14 May 2015                                    

*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.

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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