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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ABUN Project #35: Painting Petrels in Peril gets going today

ABUN 35 higher res

In 2019 the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels declared that a conservation crisis continues to be faced by its 31 listed species, with thousands of albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters dying every year as a result of fisheries operations.  To increase awareness of this crisis ACAP inaugurated a World Albatross Day, to be held annually on 19 June.  In early 2020 Artists and Biologists Unite for Nature (ABUN) artists produced artworks illustrating the 22 albatross species that were used to support ‘WAD2020’.

This year as a separate exercise to this year’s planned World Albatross Day activities, which will once more be centred on albatrosses, ACAP has asked ABUN to paint the nine ACAP-listed petrels and shearwaters*.  ABUN Project #35: Painting Petrels in Peril starts today and will run for two months to the end of February.  As in 2020 ACAP will be hugely grateful for the support it continues to receive from the ABUN artists and will use the artworks to illustrate website posts, to make freely downloadable high-quality posters and for other ACAP products.

Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea Rapa Island Austral group French Polynesia Nov 2019 Tubenoses Project H.Shirihai 3

To be painted soon?  A Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea, Rapa Island, French Polynesia, photograph by Hadoram Shirihai

With thanks to ABUN founder Kitty Harvill and all those who have made their photographs available to inspire the artists.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 4 January 2021

*Southern Giant Petrel, Northern Giant Petrel, Spectacled Petrel, Grey Petrel, Black Petrel, Westland Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Pink-footed Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater.

126 Mōlī nests as the 2020/21 season gets underway in the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai

 Kilauea Point Laysan lighthouse Jacqueline Olivera

 A Laysan Albatross within the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge; photograph by Jacqueline Olivera

The Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on the Hawaiian island of Kauai supported a total of 116 pairs of Laysan Albatrosses or Mōlī Phoebastria immutabilis in the 2019/20 breeding season, from which 44 chicks fledged to give a breeding success of 37.9%.  Introduced predators such as feral cats and pigs likely contributed to this low percentage, confirming the need for a new predator-proof fence (click here).

Latest news from the national wildlife refuge’s Facebook page is that there are 126 Mōlī nests within the refuge this season, ten more than in the previous season.  Let’s hope breeding success inceases as well.  In the 2018/19 season 121 active nests were counted in December.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 January 2020

Just dropping in: a Tristan Albatross from Gough Island visits the Crozet Islands, 5000 km away

French Tristan leg band

"French ring BS-28275 on an adult Tristan Albatross on Gough Island in 2017", photograph by David Kinchin-Smith

Alex Bond (Bird Group, Department of Life Sciences, The Natural History Museum, Tring, UK) and colleagues have published open access in the journal Polar Biology on a Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena that visited the Crozet Islands before returning to Gough Island to breed.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Albatrosses and other seabirds are generally highly philopatric, returning to natal colonies when they achieve breeding age. This is not universal, however, and cases of extraordinary vagrancy are rare. The Tristan Albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) breeds on Gough Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, with a small population on Inaccessible Island, Tristan da Cunha, ca 380 km away. In 2015, we observed an adult male albatross in Gonydale, Gough Island, which had been ringed on Ile de la Possession, Crozet Islands in 2009 when it was assumed to be an immature Wandering Albatross (D. exulans). We sequenced 1109 bp of the cytochrome b mitochondrial gene from this bird, and confirmed it to be a Tristan Albatross, meaning its presence on Crozet 6 years previous, and nearly 5000 km away, was a case of prospecting behaviour in a heterospecific colony. Given the challenges in identifying immature Diomedea albatrosses, such dispersal events may be more common than thought previously.”

French Tristan

"An adult male Tristan Albatross breeding on Gough Island in 2015 with French ring BS28275 visible on the left leg", photograph by Derren Fox

With thanks to Robert Vagg.  Photographs are from the publication.

Reference:

Bond, A.L., Taylor, C., Kinchin-Smith, D., Fox, D., Witcutt, E., Ryan, P.G., Loader, S.P. & Weimerskirch, H. 2020.  A juvenile Tristan albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) on land at the Crozet Islands. Polar Biology doi.org/10.1007/s00300-020-02786-0.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 January 2020

Laysan Albatross egg translocations undertaken once again on Kauai

Dec 2020 Hob Osterlund

Leilani Fowlke and Robby Kohley of Pacific Rim Conservation exchange eggs with a female-female pair, known as the "Puʻu Moms", on Kauai; photograph by Hob Osterlund

Once more ACAP Latest News can report on the annual effort to exchange infertile eggs with fertile ones of the globally Near Threatened Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.  Egg collecting at the Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands (PFMR) in an effort to reduce the risks of bird strikes has been conducted over more than decade; the eggs are then given to breeding pairs (including several female-female ones) with infertile eggs elsewhere on the island, following testing by candling.

Candled egg PRC

“A developing Laysan Albatross egg.  The red circle in the middle is the developing chick”, photograph from the Pacific Rim Conservation

Eric Vanderwerf of the Hawaiian NPO Pacific Rim Conservation writes on its Facebook page:

“The week before Christmas is always a busy one for us.  During that week we receive up to 45 Laysan Albatross eggs from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, where the adults nest next to an aircraft runway.  Since large birds and large planes are a bad combination, we are given the eggs, and then they are placed in wild "foster nests" across Kauai and Oahu whose natural eggs have died.  We determine whether eggs are alive by candling them and looking for the embryo.”

Hob Osterlund of the Kaua’i Albatross Network adds that “fifteen more albatross may fledge from the shores of Kaua’i this year” as a consequence of the exchanges.  In the 2018/19 season 16 fertile eggs from the missile range facility were given to infertile pairs on Kauai with more taken to Oahu for the same purpose.  A translocation also took place in the 2019/20 season.

For more background on the translocation exercise read here.

With thanks to Hob Osterlund and Eric Vanderwerf.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 31 December 2020

“A tragic Christmas Day find”. A juvenile albatross found entangled by balloon ribbons in New South Wales

 Black browed Campbell Albatross juv with balloon Dolphin Point NSW from Karen Joynes

The entangled juvenile mollymawk albatross.  A deflated blue and a partially inflated tan-coloured balloon are visible, along with blue and white plastic ribbons

 No Balloon Release Australia has reported an albatross found washed up dead at Dolphin Point, near Ulladulla, New South Wales, Australia on 25 December with two balloons and ribbons wound tightly around its legs.  The bird can be identified as a juvenile mollymawk Thalassarche sp. from its olive-brown bill colour.

Based on its predominantly dark underwings, the bird could either be a Black-browed T. melanophris or a Campbell T. impavida Albatross; the latter distinguished by its honey-coloured eye when adult from the dark brown eye of the Black-browed.  However, juveniles of both closely related species have dark brown eyes, which anyway are not visible in the photograph.  One online guide states that “juveniles of the two species are indistinguishable”.  Both species are regularly recorded in the waters off New South Wales.

At least five albatross species (including the Black-browed) and both giant petrels Macronectes sp. have been recorded killed by being entangled by or ingesting balloons and their attachments (click here).

With thanks to Karen Joynes, No Balloon Release Australia.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 December 2021