Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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Read about recent developments and findings in procellariiform science and conservation relevant to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels in ACAP Latest News.

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Trends in Southern Royal and Light-mantled Albatrosses and Northern Giant and White-chinned Petrels on Enderby Island, Auckland Islands

Light mantled Albatrosses Colin ODonnell Annie Shoemaker Magdaleno

Light-mantled Albatrosses at the Auckland Islands, by ABUN artist Annie Shoemaker-Magdaleno from a photograph by Colin O'Donnell 

Rebecca French (Charles Perkins Centre, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, Australia) and colleagues have published in the ornithological journal Notornis on historical trends of birds, including ACAP-listed seabirds, on sub-Antarctic Enderby Island south of New Zealand.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Enderby Island is a much-visited small island in the New Zealand subantarctic, and is an important area for birdlife.  However, despite this, the bird community of Enderby Island has never been systematically described.  We summarise bird records on Enderby Island from 1840 to 2018.  Using these data we describe the bird community with an emphasis on resident species, and compare the frequency of sightings before and after eradication of invasive mammals in 1993.  We also investigate trends in bird sightings from 1992 to 2018. There was a significant increase in the sightings of some species, including tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) and silvereye (Zosterops lateralis), and a significant decrease in others, including white-fronted tern (Sterna striata). Some species, such as New Zealand falcon (Falco novaeseelandiae) and Auckland Island snipe (Coenocorypha aucklandica aucklandica), have recovered successfully following dramatic historical declines.  We hypothesise that these trends in sightings are driven by changes in human exploitation, the introduction and subsequent eradication of browsing mammals and mice, changes in the abundance and structure of the invertebrate community, and changes in vegetation cover.  However, we believe that trends in sighting rates of southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora) may be an artefact of changes in visitor behaviour following the construction of a boardwalk, rather than changes in the species’ abundance.”

Southern Royal Albatross Pair Enderby Island Barry Baker s 

Southern Royal Albatrosses on Enderby Island, photograph by Barry Baker

This publication forms part of a compilation of 19 papers appearing in a special issue of the journal Notornis of Birds New Zealand that covers many aspects of the avifauna of the Auckland Islands.  The special issue is also being made available as a 436-page book with the title Lost Gold: Ornithology of the subantarctic Auckland Islands.  Edited by Colin Miskelly and Craig Symes, it can be ordered for purchase (click here).  An interview with the two editors gives information about their work with the book.  Click here to access abstracts for all 19 papers.

With thanks to Colin Miskelly, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Reference:

French, R.K., Miskelly, C.M., Muller, C.G., Russ, R.B., Taylor, G.A., & Tennyson, A.J.D. 2020.  Birds of Enderby Island, Auckland Islands, New Zealand subantarctic.  Notornis 667: 189-212.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 15 April 2020

Birds New Zealand supports World Albatross Day as it publishes on the birds of the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands

 Birds New Zealand

Birds New Zealand (formally known as the Ornithological Society for New Zealand) was established in 1940.  It states on its website “Birds New Zealand is committed to the study of birds and their habitat use within New Zealand through encouraging[ its 1000] members and organising projects and schemes.  Activities are organised at both the national and regional level, with 20 regions providing a local network for members to engage in bird studies.  We promote the recording and wide circulation of the results of bird studies and observations through the production of a scientific journal and other publications promoting birds in New Zealand. Birds New Zealand seeks to assist the conservation and management of birds by providing information, from which sound management decisions can be derived”.

The President of Birds New Zealand is Bruce McKinlay.  He writes to ACAP Latest News in support of this year’s inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June: “Understanding and marvelling about the wondrous journeys that albatrosses make in the Southern Ocean is an obsession for many New Zealanders.  They link us as an island nation to many other parts of the globe and emphasise that the conservation of these magnificent birds is an international priority".

 Bruce McKinlay

Bruce McKinlay, President of Birds New Zealand

Birds New Zealand’s peer-reviewed quarterly scientific journal Notornis has published papers on New Zealand avifauna since 1943, including on its many breeding species of ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels.  Its most recent issue, published this month, is a compilation of 19 papers that cover many aspects of the avifauna of the Auckland Islands, including coverage of its six ACAP-listed species*.  The special issue is also being made available as a book with the title Lost Gold: Ornithology of the subantarctic Auckland Islands.  Edited by Colin Miskelly and Craig Symes, it can be ordered for purchase (click here).  An interview with the two editors gives information about their work with the book.  Click here to access abstracts for all 19 papers.

*These papers are being separately featured in ACAP Latest News this month.

 Lost Gold Aucklands

With thanks to Bruce McKinlay and Colin Miskelly, Birds New Zealand.

Reference:

Miskelly, C. & Symes, C. (Eds) 2020.  Lost Gold: Ornithology of the subantarctic Auckland Islands.  Wellington: Te Papa Press.  436 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 April 2020

Japan’s Yamashina Institute for Ornithology lends it support to World Albatross Day 2020

Yamashina Institute logo 

The Yamashina Institute for Ornithology was established in 1942.  It consists of a Division of Natural History, a Division of Avian Conservation (Bird Migration Research Center) and an Administration Bureau.  The institute's collection now includes 69 000 specimens and a 39 000-piece library.  The institute conducts ornithological studies and research, as well as bird banding commissioned by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment.  The Yamashina Institute promotes public awareness of ornithology by publishing academic journals featuring research articles, and newsletters introducing research activities in an easy-to-understand format.

Dr. Kiyoaki Ozaki has been the Yamashina Institute’s Deputy Director General since 2010 and is a Senior Researcher.  He has long worked on Japan's albatross projects, both on Torishima and Mukojima in the Ogasawara Islands, notably on the globally Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus.

Kiyoaki Ozaki 

Dr. Kiyoaki Ozaki with two Short-tailed Albatross decoys

Dr Ozaki writes to ACAP Latest News: “The Short-tailed Albatross was once on the brink of extinction with less than 100 individuals but has now increased to over 5000 thanks to persistent international conservation efforts.  However, there are many more albatross species in need of conservation action.  World Albatross Day 2020 is an excellent opportunity to remind us of their needs, and that we can still save these magnificent birds”.

The Yamashina Institute’s support for ‘WAD2020’ has been further demonstrated by photographing World Albatross Day banners with breeding albatrosses on both Mukojima and Torishima for ACAP Latest News in the last month.

Short tailed Albatross Laurie Johnson Lucimara Wesolowicz

Short-tailed Albatrosses by ABUN artist Lucimara Wesolowicz‎, from a photograph by Laurie Smaglick Johnson

With thanks to Teru Yuta, Division of Avian Conservation, Yamashina Institute for Ornithology.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 April 2020

Testing techniques for estimating breeding numbers of Light-mantled Albatrosses

Light mantled Albatross Colin ODonnell Shary Page Weckwerth hi res

Light-mantled Albatross pair on Adams Island, Auckland Islands by ABUN artist Shary Page Weckwerth,‎ from a photograph by Colin O'Donnell

Kalinka Rexer-Huber (Parker Conservation, Dunedin, New Zealand) and colleagues have published in the journal Notornis on efficacy of different counting methods for Light-mantled Albatrosses Phoebetria palpebrata on New Zealand sub-Antarctic islands,

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Population sizes of light-mantled sooty albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata, LMSA) at the three New Zealand breeding sites (Auckland, Antipodes, and Campbell Islands) are poorly known.  Annual counts since 1999 of a small number of LMSA nests show a long-term population decline on Adams Island, Auckland Islands.  Mean nest numbers in 2016-17 were 10% down on counts in 1999–2000, with an annual rate of decrease, lambda, of 0.44 in the period 1999–2019.  Three methods to estimate the breeding population size were trialled: ground counts of nests (Adams); aerial photography of LMSA with ground-truthing (Adams); and boat-based counts of LMSA on coastal cliffs (Campbell).  Ground counts in a clearly delimited area were repeatable (42 and 40 active nests in 2017 and 2018, respectively), thus useful for monitoring, but ground counts are too limited for a whole-island population estimate.  Aerial photography overestimated the number of active nests by 12.5% compared with ground counts.  Ground-truthing showed that most apparently occupied nests contained an egg, and so nests occupied by birds with no egg are a smaller error source when interpreting aerial photographs than for other albatrosses.  Boat-based LMSA counts proved inaccurate due to vessel movement.  Considering that the terrain favoured by LMSA is very difficult to access, population size estimates based on aerial photography with ground calibration for apparent breeders appear the most effective of the techniques trialled.  Ongoing counts at vantage-point and ground-count sites enable continued monitoring of LMSA trends at Adams Island.”

This publication forms part of a compilation of 19 papers appearing in a special issue of the journal Notornis of Birds New Zealand that covers many aspects of the avifauna of the Auckland Islands. The special issue is also being made available as a 436-page book with the title Lost Gold: Ornithology of the subantarctic Auckland Islands.  Edited by Colin Miskelly and Craig Symes, it can be ordered for purchase (click here).  An interview with the two editors gives information about their work with the book. Click here to access abstracts for all 19 papers.

Reference:

Rexer-Huber, K., Walker, K.J., Elliott, G.P., Baker, G.B., Debski, I., Jensz, K., Sagar, P.M., Thompson, D.R. & Parker, G.C. 2020.  Population trends of light-mantled sooty albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata) at Adams Island and trial of ground, boat, and aerial methods for population estimates.  Notornis 67: 341-355.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 April 2020

Can bill colour be used to separate Shy from White-capped Albatrosses?

White capped Albatross Laurie Johnson Shary Page Weckwerth

White-capped Albatross by ABUN wildlife artist Shary Page Weckwerth‎ from a photograph by Laurie Smaglick Johnson

Alan Tennyson (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand) has published in the journal Notornis on variation in bill colour in the White-capped Albatross Thalassarche steadi.

The paper’s abstract follows:

"The white-capped mollymawk (Thalassarche cauta steadi) and Tasmanian mollymawk (T. cauta cauta) have discreet breeding sites, but away from their breeding grounds, where their at-sea ranges overlap, they are difficult to identify.  The bill colour of these taxa has recently been considered to differ, but there is much conflicting information in published accounts.  Three key differences often discussed are the amount of yellow on the culminicorn, the amount of yellow on the cutting edge to the upper mandible, and the amount of darkness on the mandibular unguis.  In January 2018 I assessed these characters in 100 adult white-capped mollymawks at their Disappointment Island breeding site and found that each character was variably present.  The majority of white-capped mollymawks lacked a yellow base to their culminicorn and had a dark mark on their mandibular unguis. In contrast, it has been reported that the majority of adult Tasmanian mollymawks have yellow at the base of their culminicorn and lack a dark mark on their mandibular unguis. While these characters can be used as a guide to identify these taxa, a minority of individuals of each taxon show the ‘typical’ bill colours of the other taxon.  The amount of yellow on the cutting edge to the upper mandible varied between individual white-capped mollymawks, and so this is not a useful identification character."

This publication forms part of a compilation of 19 papers appearing in a special issue of the journal Notornis of Birds New Zealand that covers many aspects of the avifauna of the Auckland Islands. The special issue is also being made available as a 436-page book with the title Lost Gold: Ornithology of the subantarctic Auckland Islands.  Edited by Colin Miskelly and Craig Symes, it can be ordered for purchase (click here).  An interview with the two editors gives information about their work with the book.  Click here to access abstracts for all 19 papers.

Reference:

Tennyson, A.J.D. 2020.   Variation in the bill colour of the white-capped mollymawk (Thalassarche cauta steadi). Notornis 67: 333-340.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 April 2020

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