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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Stable isotopes show variability in foraging and migration strategies of Grey-headed Albatrosses

 Bird Island 5 Richard Phillips

Grey-headed Albatross on Bird Island, South Atlantic, photograph by Richard Phillips

William Mills (British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK) and colleagues have published in the journal Ibis on using stable isotopes to study non‐breeding adult Grey‐headed Albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma while at sea.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The non‐breeding period is critical for restoration of body condition and self‐maintenance in albatrosses, yet detailed information on diet and distribution during this stage of the annual cycle is lacking for many species. Here, we use stable isotope values of body feathers (δ 13C, δ 15N) to infer habitat use and trophic level of non‐breeding adult Grey‐headed Albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma (n = 194) from South Georgia. Specifically, we: (i) investigate intrinsic drivers (sex, age, previous breeding outcome) of variation in habitat use and trophic level; (ii) quantify variation among feathers of the same birds; and (iii) examine potential carry‐over effects of habitat use and trophic level during the non‐breeding period on subsequent breeding outcome. In agreement with previous tracking studies, δ 13C values of individual feathers indicate that non‐breeding Grey‐headed Albatrosses from South Georgia foraged across a range of oceanic habitats, but mostly in subantarctic waters, between the Antarctic Polar Front and Subtropical Front. Sex differences were subtle but statistically significant, and overlap in the core isotopic niche areas was high (62%); however, males exhibited slightly lower δ 13C and higher δ 15N values than females, indicating that males forage at higher latitudes and at a higher trophic level. Neither age nor previous breeding outcome influenced stable isotope values, and we found no evidence of carry‐over effects of non‐breeding habitat use or trophic level on subsequent breeding outcome. Repeatability among feathers of the same individual was moderate in δ 13C and low in δ 15N. This cross‐sectional study demonstrates high variability in the foraging and migration strategies of this albatross population.”


Mills, W.F., McGill, R.A.R., Cherel, Y., Votier, S.C. & Phillips, R.A. 2020.  Stable isotopes demonstrate intraspecific variation in habitat use and trophic level of non‐breeding albatrosses.  Ibis

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 August 2020

Albatrosses and giant petrels continue to ingest plastic litter at South Africa’s Marion Island

Wandering Albatross by John Cooper

An elderly male Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans and chick, near Prinsloomeer on Marion Island, photograph by John Cooper

Vonica Perold (FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, South Africa) and colleagues have published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on plastic ingested by albatrosses and giant petrels at sub-Antarctic Marion Island.  Fishery-related litter decreased with reduced local fishing effort, but non-fishery litter items increased between 1996 and 2018.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Plastic ingestion by seabirds is an efficient way to monitor marine plastics. We report temporal variation in the characteristics of marine litter regurgitated by albatrosses and giant petrels on sub-Antarctic Marion Island between 1996 and 2018. Both fishery and other litter peaked during the height of the Patagonian toothfish fishery around the island (1997–1999). Comparing the two subsequent decades of reduced fishing effort (1999–2008 and 2009–2018), fishing litter decreased while other litter increased across all species. Litter increased most in grey-headed albatrosses, followed by giant petrels and wandering albatrosses. Similar ranked responses were found in the same species at South Georgia, but non-fishery-related litter has increased faster in the Indian Ocean than the southwest Atlantic, indicating regional changes in litter growth rates. These seabirds' regurgitations provide an easy, non-invasive way to track changes in oceanic litter in a remote area that is otherwise difficult to monitor.”


Perold, V., Schoombie, S. & Ryan, P.G. 2020.  Decadal changes in plastic litter regurgitated by albatrosses and giant petrels at sub-Antarctic Marion IslandMarine Pollution Bulletin 159.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 August 2020

Cats, possums and devils: not a good mix for Short-tailed Shearwaters on Tasmania’s Maria Island

 Short tailed Shearwater off Noth Cape NZ Kirk Zufelt

Short-tailed Shearwater at sea, photograph by Kirk Zufelt

Vincent Scoleri (School of Natural Sciences, University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay, Australia) and colleagues have published in the journal Biological Conservation on Tasmanian Devils Sarcophilus harrisii causing the extinction of a colony of Short-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus tenuirostris.

“Offshore islands are ideal for establishing insurance populations of endangered species as they often lack threatening processes found on mainlands. However, introductions of endangered predators can have complex effects on island species. The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) was introduced to Maria Island in Tasmania, Australia in 2012 to establish an insurance population separate from a novel disease causing declines throughout its native range. Maria Island has small breeding colonies of the short-tailed shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris) that are preyed on by an invasive mesopredator (feral cat, Felis catus) and an introduced native omnivore (common brushtail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula). We tested whether the introduction of devils increased predation pressure on shearwaters or reduced it by suppressing cat and possum activity. We measured predator activity on shearwater colonies, and surveyed burrow occupancy of shearwater adults and chicks, from 2013 to 2016; we also monitored shearwaters at a colony on a nearby island without terrestrial predators for comparison. Increasing devil activity was associated with decreasing total predator activity at shearwater colonies on Maria Island due to declines in possum and cat activity, evidently caused by predation on possums by devils, and competition with cats. However, shearwater colonies continued to decline, reaching zero occupancy within four years of devil introduction. Because of their larger size and ability to dig, devils had greater impacts on nesting shearwaters than either cats or possums. Conservation translocations of endangered predators must consider trade-offs between their protection and potential impacts on non-threatened native prey species.”


Scoleri, V.P., Johnson, C.N., Vertigan, P. & Jones, M.E. 2020.  Conservation trade-offs: island introduction of a threatened predator suppresses invasive mesopredators but eliminates a seabird colony.  Biological Conservation 248.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 August 2020

¿Entiendes español? Listen to a radio interview with ACAP’s Executive Secretary this Sunday

Christine Bogle ABUN posters 1
Christine Bogle in the ACAP Secretariat offices in Hobart admiring World Albatross Day posters by Artists & Biologists Unite for Nature

ACAP Executive Secretary Christine Bogle has been keeping up her Spanish – an ACAP official language – in conversations with Hobart-based teacher, Florencia Hancock, who is from Argentina.  On Sunday the 16th of August Christine will be interviewed for an hour in Spanish on community radio Hobart FM by Florencia, with the Agreement as the subject.

“Hobart FM's broadcasts are at once eclectic and broad ranging.  Briefly, the station aims to cater for the information and entertainment needs of those not catered for by mainstream radio in Hobart.  From classical to blues, from country to easy listening and nostalgia, there is a large array of music styles represented across the program schedule, with special attention given to local performances and ethnic language broadcasts.  Hobart FM enables the voices of individuals and minority groups to be heard throughout the greater Hobart area.”

ACAP’s friends in Latin America and in Spain are invited to listen in to Christine’s interview.  Go to the website at 10h00 AEST (GMT/UTC + 10h) this Sunday and click on “Listen Now”’.

hobart fm logo small

Christine Bogle, la Secretaria Ejécutiva del ACAP, sigue manteniendo su español, un idioma oficial del ACAP, en conversaciones con la profesora de español, Florencia Hancock.  Florencia es de Argentina y vive en Hobart.  El domingo 16 de agosto Christine será entrevistada durante una hora en español en la radio comunitaria Hobart FM por Florencia, con el Acuerdo como tema.

Los amigos de ACAP en América Latina y en España están invitados a escuchar la entrevista de Christine.  Vayan al sitio web a las 10h00 AEST (GMT/UTC + 10h) este domingo y hagan  clic en "Listen Now”.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 August 2020

“Winter by the Sea – Australia’s Sub Antarctic Wildlife” – a lecture by Melanie Wells


Light-mantled flyby - Melanie Wells in her natural habitat on Macquarie Island

“Join seabird researcher Melanie Wells as she describes the extraordinary marine life that make their homes on Australia’s sub-Antarctic Islands.  The presentation features seabirds including albatross, petrels, and about a million penguins, and of course seals that haul up on the beaches, and is largely focused on Macquarie Island, managed by Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife where Mel has worked as a Wildlife Ranger.”

Presented live on 28 July as part of Coastcare Victoria and Parks Victoria’s “Winter by the Sea” series of online talks.

With thanks to Mark Rodrigue, State-wide Leader - Marine and Coasts, Environment and Science Division, Parks Victoria & Melanie Wells, albicake baker extraordinaire.

Melanie Wells Light mantled Albatross 1

Baking up a storm: A Light-mantled Albatross cake by Meanie Wells waits for its legs - before coming  fifth by people's choice in the Great Albicake Bake Off

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 August 2020