On 1 January 2012 Gough Island field researchers Karen Bourgeois and Sylvain Dromzée came across a Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena chick in the long-term study colony in Gonydale that was behaving unusually.
From their report it was stated to be "[s]pinning on itself when we approached it, reacting more about our voices than our proximity. One eye was blue pale and the other closed. It was obviously blind. Not ringed, we can't know from which nest it came from. It looked healthy even if it exhibited still some down on its neck suggesting a delay in its growth. Sometimes it faced to the wind spreading the wings and practicing like the other Tristan Albatrosses close to fledge."
The blind Tristan Albatross was next seen on 9 January in the stream of the Gony River where it was "paddling when we recovered it and brought [it] back to an old nest in the neighbourhood where we found it the first time."
It was last seen alive on 16 January standing on a small islet in the stream. On 8 February "we found its fresh carcass in the Gony River 400 m downstream from the previous location where it was. It had been dragged by the flood after heavy rainfall a few days before."
Given that it would not have been able to fledge successfully, death by drowning was perhaps a quicker end than starvation and attack when visibly weakened by House Mice Mus musculus and/or Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus (click here).
With thanks to Karen Bourgeois and Sylvain Dromzée for their observations and photographs.
Research on Tristan Albatrosses on Gough is funded by the UK's Overseas Territories Environment Programme via the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Activities ashore are conducted with the approval of the Tristan Conservation Department and are supported logistically by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.
John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 October 2012