Short-tailed Albatrosses return once more to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and to Kure Atoll

 Two Short-tailed Albatrosses Phoebastria albatrus have returned to the USA’s Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the North Pacific. 

On 27 October 2013 on Eastern Island an adult male was found resting close to the site where he and his mate have previously successfully reared two chicks to fledging in 2010 and 2011 (click here).  The bird was banded as a fledgling on Japan’s Torishima Island in 1987 and has been returning to the same spot in the refuge since 1999.

The Eastern Island male Short-tailed Albatross awaits its partner

Photograph by Dale Chorman/SeeMore Wildlife Systems

“With luck, his female partner has survived a year foraging at sea to once again return to her mate on Midway Atoll,” said biologist Pete Leary. “We have tried for years to attract a nesting pair using decoys and restoring nesting habitat, so the potential for Midway to play a small role in helping sustain an amazing endangered species is rewarding and encouraging.” 

In late 2012 the two birds reunited again but did not breed and produce a fledgling this year.  However, the female had not showed up by 3 November.

A remote camera monitors the Eastern Island Short-tailed Albatross pair

Photograph by Pete Leary

"Once one of the most abundant albatross species in the North Pacific with a population of more than 5 million adults, short-tailed albatross were hunted primarily for feathers and by 1949 the species was thought to be extinct. However, mostly through the efforts of Japanese researchers and international treaties, the short-tailed albatross population is beginning to recover. In 2007, the world population was estimated at 2,350 birds” (click here).

A second, sub-adult Short-tailed Albatross has also returned to Midway’s Sand Island – on 26 October, landing “in its usual place near the makai (South) side of the taxiway…”.


The Sand Island Short-tailed Albatross with a Black-footed Albatross

Photograph by Nicole Cody/USFWS

The female-female pair of Short-tails seen every year since 2010 (click here) returned to Kure Atoll for the fourth time last month.

The Kure Short-tailed Albatross pair on 31 October 2013

Photograph courtesy of the Kure Atoll Conservancy

Midway and Kure Atolls forms part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which has been a World Heritage Site since July 2010.

For more news from Midway click here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 November 2013 

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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