Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Mouse attack! A Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross receives a severe head wound

The fatal attacks by introduced House Mice Mus musculus on chicks of near-endemic and Critically Endangered Tristan Albatrosses Diomedea dabbenena on World Heritage Gough Island must surely now be well known (click here).

Each year researchers on the island report grievous wounds inflicted by mice on downy chicks after the end of the brood stage in winter, with repeated annual surveys showing a consistently too-low breeding success for the species’ ultimate survival.  Most wounds are found on the birds’ rumps.  Every now and then though wounds are recorded elsewhere on the body, some quite horrific in appearance.

 

The chick photographed here with its face partially eaten away and bone exposed was found in the north of the island on 19 September this year.  No return visit has yet been made to see if it has survived, but given the tendency for Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus to “clean up” wounded and moribund chicks the mornings after nocturnal mice have done their grisly work, it seem likely it has not.

Eradication of the island’s mice by aerial poison baiting seems the only cure.  Roll on the day!

With thanks to Peter Ryan for the photograph.

Research on ACAP-listed species on the outer islands of Tristan da Cunha is funded by the UK's Overseas Territories Environment Programmeand theDarwin Initiative Programme via the Royal Society for the Protection of Birdsand by the FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town.  It is conducted with the support and approval of the Tristan Conservation Department and the logistic support of the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 October 2013