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.

New study states plastic ingested by Flesh-footed Shearwaters is highest reported for any marine vertebrate

Jennifer Lavers (School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Victoria, Australia) and colleagues have published in the journal Environmental Pollution on plastic loads in fledgling Flesh-footed Shearwaters Puffinus carneipes.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“To provide much needed quantitative data on the lethal and sublethal effects of plastic pollution on marine wildlife, we sampled breast feathers and stomach contents from Flesh-footed Shearwater (Puffinus carneipes) fledglings in eastern Australia.  Birds with high levels of ingested plastic exhibited reduced body condition and increased contaminant load (p < 0.05).  More than 60% of fledglings exceed international targets for plastic ingestion by seabirds, with 16% of fledglings failing these targets after a single feeding (range: 0.13–3.21 g of plastic/feeding).  As top predators, seabirds are considered sentinels of the marine environment.  The amount of plastic ingested and corresponding damage to Flesh-footed Shearwater fledglings is the highest reported for any marine vertebrate, suggesting the condition of the Australian marine environment is poor.  These findings help explain the ongoing decline of this species and are worrying in light of increasing levels of plastic pollution in our oceans.”

Plastic removed from a Flesh-footed Shearwater, photograph by Ian Hutton


Lavers, J.L., Bond, A.L. & Hutton, I. 2014.  Plastic ingestion by Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes): implications for fledgling body condition and the accumulation of plastic-derived chemicals.  Environmental Pollution 187: 124–129.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 February 2013

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

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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