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.

One-eyed albatrosses can make it through life

"In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king" (Wells 1904).

Albatrosses, like most wild animals, are presumed not to be able to survive for any length of time with serious injuries or disabilities.  There are exceptions: I have seen an otherwise healthy-looking adult Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans ashore at Marion Island with one foot bent so far back such that it had to hobble on top of its web.  Of course, a broken wing that stopped flight for an albatross would soon be fatal; as, you might imagine would be any problem with eye sight.  However, it seems some individual albatrosses are able to survive with only one functional eye as the following examples for three species show.

An adult Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis blind in its left eye was photographed in the north-east of Kauai, one of the USA’s Hawaiian Islands last year (click here).  The bird has been observed courting on a private property over the last two breeding seasons but not as yet commenced breeding.  The otherwise healthy-looking bird also had its upper and lower mandibles slightly misaligned and a distorted skull.  It is thought that the blindness could have been caused by avian pox contracted from mosquitoes when the albatross was a young chick – which would mean it had survived for several years with one good eye.

One-eyed Laysan Albatross on Kauai, photograph by Hob Osterlund

A White-capped Albatross Thalassarche steadi seen to be blind on its left side was photographed off Kaikoura, New Zealand by the tourist company, Albatross Encounter last December, with pictures placed on its Facebook Page.  The bird appeared to be healthy and based on previous sightings had survived for some time.

One-eyed White-capped Albatross off Kaikoura, New Zealand, November 2014

Upper photo showing the bird's blind eye, lower the good eye, courtesy of Albatross Encounter 

Another White-capped Albatross with a blind eye was seen off New Zealand’s Stewart Island by Brent Stephenson recently on a sea-watching “pelagic” trip.

Brent also reports to ACAP Latest News of a Chatham Albatross T. eremita seen on 19 August 2006 in "OK condition" alongside a small fishing vessel off Gisborne, New Zealand which was blind in its left eye.

Chatham Albatross showing its blind eye, photograph by Brent Stephenson

Less fortunate was a totally blind Tristan Albatross D. dabbenena chick on Gough Island in 2012 that, although able to be fed and exercise its wings, eventually drowned in a stream near its nest site before fledging (click here).  The bird was described as having one pale blue eye with the other closed.

With thanks to Hob Osterlund and Brent Stephenson for information and photographs.

Reference:

Wells, H.G. 1904.  The country of the blind.  The Strand Magazine, April 1904.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 January 2015

One-way trip: a banded Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross gets recovered on a Brazilian beach

A colour-banded Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos was found dead on a beach near Cachoeira do Bom Jesus, Florianópolis Island, Brazil on 21 September 2014.

  

The beached albatross and its colour band, photographs by Fernando Farias

According to a report recently received from SAFRING the bird was banded as an adult with plastic colour band Red B91 and South African Bird Ringing Unit (SAFRING) metal band 8-79025 near Hottentot Gulch on Tristan da Cunha in the mid-South Atlantic on 11 October 2009.  The distance between banding and recovery localities is 3538 km, with an elapsed time of four years and 11 months (1806 days).

Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses regularly occur in Brazilian waters (click here).

With thanks to Dane Paijmans, SAFRING, South Africa and Fernando Farias and Patricia Pereira Serafini, CEMAVE, Brazil for information and photographs.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 January 2015

Second year of the Chatham Albatross chick translocation project gets underway

The Chatham Island Taiko Trust has been preparing to collect Chatham Albatross Thalassarche eremita chicks from the breeding colony on The Pyramid off New Zealand’s Chatham Islands, the species’ single breeding site for the second year.

Activities in preparation for the 2015 transfer have included weeding around the artificial nests used in the previous season at the translocation site at Point Gap, Tuku Farm on the south-west coast of Main Chatham and filling up beach ball bladders with water to weigh down the decoys.

The decoys get readied for Season Two

News is now in that 40 chicks were successfully transferred last week from The Pyramid to the translocation site. There they will be artificially reared in the hope of eventually creating a new breeding colony.  The 2015 chicks have been given their first feed, with the experience gained last year helping the exercise to go smoothly.

This year's effort follows on the first year of the project when 50 chicks were translocated (click here).  All 50 fledged successfully (click here).

Chatham Albatross chicks on their artificial nests among decoys in the first translocation season

The transfer team carries the 2015 chicks into their new home in transfer boxes

Photographs courtesy of the Chatham Island Taiko Trust

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 January 2015

Record numbers of Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses breeding in the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge this year thought due to El Niño

The following news release from the Facebook Page of the Friends of Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge reports on record numbers of Black-footed Phoebastria nigripes and Laysan P. immutabilis Albatrosses breeding on the USA’s Midway Atoll in the North-Western Hawaiian Islands this year.

Large numbers of breeding Laysan Albatrosses on Midway in the 2014/2015 season

Photograph by Dan Clark

“Results from the recent annual nesting albatross census on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge/Battle of Midway National Memorial within the Papāhānaumokuakea Marine National Monument confirm that Midway’s nesting albatross colony is the largest in the world!!

Nineteen volunteers systematically covered the entire surface of the atoll’s three small islands counting active nest sites from each of two species from December 11, 2014 through January 2, 2015.  Their final count resulted in over 1.39 million individual birds, assuming two adults per nest, for both Laysan and black-footed albatross species combined.

This year (hatch year 2015) far surpassed any previous documented year for nesting Laysan albatross on Midway Atoll with 666,044 pairs recorded.  The current count for Laysan albatross represents a 52% increase over the 2010-2014 average.  Black-footed albatross nesting pairs came in at 28,610 for the atoll, also a new record, up just over 18% from the 2010-2014 average.

For graphs, photos, and video of the count effort and albatross mating and nesting activity on Midway Atoll go to: https://www.flickr.com/…/usfwspacif…/sets/72157649901861280/".

Similarly record numbers of albatrosses are being reported from other breeding sites for these two North Pacific species, including at Kure Atoll (click here) and at Kaena Point on Oahu.

Lindsay Young of Pacific Rim Conservation reports to ACAP Latest News that during El Niño years, such as now (click here), the Transition Zone Chlorophyll Front (TZCF) moves closer to the Hawaiian Islands which means shorter commuting times for foraging birds.  As a consequence favourable oceanographic conditions may be causing fewer albatrosses to miss breeding by taking “sabbaticals” and perhaps also to some first-time breeders recruiting at a younger age.

With thanks to Lindsay Young, ACAP North Pacific News Correspondent for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 January 2105

Phase 3 to complete the eradication of rodents from a large South Atlantic island is about to start

The South Georgia Habitat Trust has this month published issue No. 23 of its newsletter Project News which informs on progress with Phase 3 of the South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project that aims to rid South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* of its introduced rats and mice.

In the newsletter information is given on the team for Phase 3 (once more to include veteran helicopter pilot, Peter Garden and also Keith Springer who led the successful operation to rid Australia’s Macquarie Island of its introduced mammals).  Plans to treat the remaining southern third of the island of over 360 km² with 4000 bags of poison bait to be dropped from three helicopters are outlined.

South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* from Prion Island, photograph by Anton Wolfaardt

Meanwhile the following news released by the trust earlier this week is suggestive of a successful Phase 2 operation.

“News just in of the discovery of the first South Georgia Pipit [Anthus antarcticus] nest in an area cleared of rodents by the Habitat Restoration Project.  The nest was spotted at Schlieper Bay on the South coast of the North-West baiting zone at Weddell Point.  This area was treated in May 2013 as part of Phase 2 of the project.  The nest, containing five chicks, was discovered by none other than Sally Poncet, a former member of Team Rat and expert on the wildlife of South Georgia.  This thrilling news shows the rapid impact of the Habitat Restoration Project on this potentially endangered species.”

Click here to access previous newsletters of the South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project.

It is expected that removal of the island’s rodents will lead to improved breeding by its seabirds, especially burrowing petrels, which include the ACAP-listed White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis.

White-chinned Petrels displaying, photograph by Ben Phalan

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 January 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.

About ACAP

ACAP Secretariat

119 Macquarie St
Hobart TAS 7000
Australia

Email: secretariat@acap.aq
Tel: +61 3 6165 6674