A South Atlantic Grey-headed Albatross banded by pioneer researcher Lance Tickell gets to see its second half century

It is not only Wisdom (a Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis still breeding on Midway Atoll at the estimated age of 62) and the late Grandma (a Northern Royal Albatross Diomedea sanfordi who bred for many years at Taiaroa Head in New Zealand and reached an estimated 60 years) who have reached good ages as albatrosses (click here). The following report received from Andy Wood is of a breeding Grey-headed Albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma on Bird Island in the South Atlantic photographed this austral summer who is not so far behind.

“This photograph of a Grey-headed Albatross with its chick at Bird Island this summer seems fairly unremarkable. Just another bird on a nest with a great view of the Willis Islands (and tens of thousands of Macaroni Penguins just out of view!). However, Bird Island Zoological Field Assistants Jen James and Steph Winnard had a reason for taking this family snap. The adult bird carries metal ring number 1425643 and colour leg ring Blue K02. Looking back through our records this bird was originally ringed as a chick, in the same breeding colony, with US Fish & Wildlife Service ring number 528-11156. This ring was applied by Lance Tickell and his team on their first visit to Bird Island in 1958-1959. So here we have a Grey-headed Albatross that is 54 years old, still fit and healthy and raising offspring. Perhaps this is a very remarkable photograph after all?”

The 54-year-old Grey-headed Albatross and its chick on Bird Island in the South Atlantic
Photograph courtesy of Jen James and Steph Winnard

Further news from Andy follows:

“The bird is a relative newcomer to our demography database, despite its age, but there are lots of reasons why that could happen. All I can tell you is this is the first breeding attempt we have recorded (non-breeder in 2007/8, 2010/11, 2011/12) and it is paired with a 12-year old. If I had to put money on it, from the attendance records at the start of the season I would say this bird is a male.”

Pioneer albatross researcher Lance Tickell has been recently honoured by having a peak on Bird Island named after him (click here). Perhaps “his” albatross should be named Lance after him (or Lancia in the event she turns out to be a female)?

With thanks to Andy Wood, British Antarctic Survey for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 February 2012

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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