Numbers up: New Zealand’s Solander Islands support 5620 breeding pairs of Buller’s Albatrosses

David Thompson (National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd, Wellington, New Zealand) and colleagues have produced a report for the Conservation Services Programme of New Zealand’s Department of Conservation on the numbers of globally Near Threatened Buller’s AlbatrossThalassarche bulleri at the Solander Islands based on a combination of aerial photography and ground counts.

The report’s executive summary follows:

“This project, funded by the Conservation Services Programme of the Department of Conservation, comprised one main objective: to produce an updated population estimate of southern Buller’s albatross at the Solander Islands. Solander Island/Hautere was visited by a two-person field team between 25 and 29 February 2016, and additionally on the return trip by helicopter by a photographer. A whole-island group (Solander Island and Little Solander Island) breeding population estimate was derived for southern Buller’s albatross Thalassarche bulleri bulleri using a combination of direct ground counts, counts from vantage points on the ground and counts from photographs of the birds on the islands. Overall, the Solander Islands population was estimated at 5,620 breeding pairs, with 5,280 of these on Solander Island and 340 pairs on Little Solander Island. This estimate is higher than the two previous whole-island estimates, from 2002 and 1996. Trend analysis using TRIM indicated an average population growth rate of 1.36% per year between 1996 and 2016. The Snares Islands/Tini Heke still hold the majority of the southern Buller’s albatross breeding population, with the current Solander Islands population representing approximately 40% of the total. Solander Island is a difficult and challenging place to undertake ground-based census work. It is recommended that in the future aerial surveys, supplemented by ground-based research in specific, relatively easy-access locations, form the basis of population estimates at this site.”

Buller's Albatrosses at the Solanders, photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl

With thanks to Barry Baker.

Reference:

Thompson, D., Sagar, P., Baker, B. & Jensz, K. 2017.  Southern Buller's Albatross Survey at the Solander Islands 2016 Buller's Albatross at the Solander Islands. Prepared for Department of Conservation April 2017.  Wellington: National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd.  18 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 April 2017