Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

The most northerly population of Southern Giant Petrels get surveyed on World Heritage Gough Island

Last year ACAP Latest News reported on the first complete census of Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus on Gough Island, the species’ most northerly breeding site.  A total of 253 incubating birds was counted at four widely-separated localities around the island (click here).

This year the survey was repeated during the annual relief of the South African weather station with 222 incubating birds counted this month.  The lower number reflects the fewer pairs (49 as against c. 85 last year) found in “Giant Petrel Valley” in the north of the island.  However, the Low Hump colony (where a demographic study with colour-banded birds is going into its fourth year) had a few more nests with eggs (173 as against 166), probably because nest staking commenced earlier than in 2012, thus capturing some early failures.

A Southern Giant Petrel on Gough Island, photographed by Ross Cowlin

Research on Southern Giant Petrels on Gough has been funded by the UK's Overseas Territories Environment Programme via the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town and by a Captain Simpson Fellowship of the Royal Naval Birdwatching Society awarded to John Cooper in 2010.  Activities ashore are conducted with the approval of the Tristan Conservation Department and are supported logistically by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.

Selected Reference:

Cuthbert, R.L., Ryan, P.G. & Cooper, J. 2013.  Population trends and breeding success of albatrosses and giant petrels at Gough Island in the face of at-sea and on-land threats.  Antarctic Sciencedoi:10.1017/S0954102013000424.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, on Gough Island, 28 September 2013