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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Keeping busy in bed: Laysan Albatrosses turn their eggs often

Scott Shaffer (Department of Biological Sciences, San José State University, San Jose, California, USA) and colleagues write in the open-access electronic journal PLoS ONE use miniature loggers in artificial eggs to investigate egg-turning in Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis and two other seabird species.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Egg turning is unique to birds and critical for embryonic development in most avian species.  Technology that can measure changes in egg orientation and temperature at fine temporal scales (1 Hz) was neither readily available nor small enough to fit into artificial eggs until recently.  Here we show the utility of novel miniature data loggers equipped with 3-axis (i.e., triaxial) accelerometers, magnetometers, and a temperature thermistor to study egg turning behavior in free-ranging birds.  Artificial eggs containing egg loggers were deployed in the nests of three seabird species for 1–7 days of continuous monitoring.  These species (1) turned their eggs more frequently (up to 6.5 turns h−1) than previously reported for other species, but angular changes were often small (1–10° most common), (2) displayed similar mean turning rates (ca. 2 turns h−1) despite major differences in reproductive ecology, and (3) demonstrated distinct diurnal cycling in egg temperatures that varied between 1.4 and 2.4°C.  These novel egg loggers revealed high-resolution, three-dimensional egg turning behavior heretofore never measured in wild birds.  This new form of biotechnology has broad applicability for addressing fundamental questions in avian breeding ecology, life history, and development, and can be used as a tool to monitor birds that are sensitive to disturbance while breeding.”

A Laysan Albatross pair changes over incubation duties

Photograph by Bob Waid


Shaffer, S.A., Clatterbuck, C.A., Kelsey, E.C., Naiman, A.D., Young, L.C., Vanderwerf, E.A., Warzybok, P., Bradley, R., Jahncke, J. & Bower, G.C. 2014.  As the egg turns: monitoring egg attendance behavior in wild birds using novel data logging technology.  PLoS ONE 9(6): e97898.  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097898.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 June 2014

Albatrosses, petrels and bycatch mitigation to get their stories told at SAMSS15 in South Africa next month

The 15th South African Marine Science Symposium (SAMSS15) will be held in the Konservatorium Building, Department of Music, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa over 15-18 July 2014 with the overall theme ‘Waves of Change – a Southern African Perspective’.

A Special Session entitled ‘Seabird Science and Conservation in Southern Africa’ will be held at SAMSS15.  Accepted papers dealing with aspects of procellariiform seabirds are listed below.

Daniel Danckwerts: The trophic ecology of the Endangered endemic Barau’s Petrel (Pterodroma baraui) at Réunion Island, South-western Indian Ocean

Bokamaso Lebepe: Hook Pods: silver lining for seabirds in pelagic longline fisheries

Bronwyn Maree: Significant reductions in mortality of threatened seabirds in a South Africa trawl fishery

Dominic Rollinson: Diving behaviour of White-chinned Petrels and its relevance for mitigating longline bycatch

Stefan Schoombie: Breeding success and foraging ecology of Sooty and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses on Marion Island

Ross Wanless: Tracking changes for managing tuna longline bycatch on the high seas

A Light-mantled Sooty Albatross guards its chick

Photograph by Rowan Treblico

With thanks to Ross Wanless for information

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 9 June 2014

Working to protect Mexico’s Critically Endangered Townsend’s Shearwaters from artificial lighting at their only breeding locality

The Critically Endangered Townsend´s Shearwater Puffinus auricularis is currently known to breed only on 132-km² Socorro Island in Mexico’s Revillagigedo Archipelago (click here).

A project by Dr. Juan Martínez of Mexico’s Instituto de Ecología, A.C. is aiming to replace street lights on Socorro to reduce light attraction and associated deaths due to collisions when Townsend’s Shearwaters are blinded.  The benefits of this change will be assessed by continuing ongoing long-term monitoring based on direct observations and automated recording.  In addition to replacing the lamps the project will collaborate with the Mexican Navy to retrieve and save shearwaters landing at its base on the island (click here).

A fledgling Townsend's Shearwater, photograph by Juan Martínez

The project is being part-funded by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and supported by the Mexican Navy’s Corps of Engineers, who will provide transport and erect the new lights – work which has already commenced.

Click here for an earlier report in ACAP Latest News on changing artificial lighting to protect breeding and fledging shearwaters and petrels.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 06 June 2014

Two French colour-banded White-chinned Petrels reported killed by fishing vessels off Namibia

Bronwyn Currie of the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources reports a banded White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis killed by a longliner on 14 May this year at 22° 51’S; 13° 04’E off Walvis Bay, Namibia.   The bird carried a French metal band DZ 25706 along with black-on-yellow colour band 212.  The bird was banded on 29 November 2013 as a breeding adult with a chick on Île Haute, Golfe de Morbihan, Îles Kerguelen.

White-chinned Petrels fall victim to a Namibian longliner

Photograph by John Paterson

An earlier record is of banded White-chinned Petrel DZ 21644 killed in a hake trawl on 11 August 2008 in Namibian waters at 28° 21’S; 14° 33’E.  Then fisheries observer onboard kept the head and the banded leg for identification purposes showing that the bird was banded as a chick on 15 March 2007 on Île de la Possession, Îles Crozet.


DZ 21644

Click here to access earlier reports in ACAP Latest News of fisheries-induced mortality of ACAP-listed seabirds, including of banded individuals, in Namibian waters.

With thanks to Kolette Grobler, Jean-Paul Roux, Franck Theron and Henri Weimerskirch for information.

Selected Literature:

Péron, C., Delord, K., Phillips, R.A., Charbonnier, Y., Marteau, C., Louzao, M. & Weimerskirch, H. 2010.  Seasonal variation in oceanographic habitat and behaviour of White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis from Kerguelen Island.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 416: 267-284.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 06 June 2014

Book review: “Albatross” by Graham Barwell is about “proverbs, folk stories, poetry and art”

Books on albatrosses come out regularly nowadays, with at least one title a year it seems.  How does this latest offering - “Albatross” by Graham Barwell in Reaktion Books’ Animal Series stack up, say in comparison to “Albatrosses” (2008) by Terence Lindsay and a book of the same name (2011) by Tony Martin?  Well, in a nutshell, this one is rather different.

The book (being published today so for once my review is not tardy) is described as “an engaging account of the historical relationship between people and albatross, and their impact on human cultures”; it “examines how people have interacted with the bird over the last two centuries, from those who sought to exploit them to those who devoted their lives to them.”

Following an introduction about albatrosses themselves the book has six chapters: “Encountering the Albatross; Imagining the Albatross; Using the Albatross: Indigenous Cultures of the Pacific; Using the Albatross: Non-indigenous Peoples; Saving the Albatross; and The Albatross Today: an Iconic Bird.  There are also lists of selected references and websites (ACAP is the first listed) and an index.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 “The Rime of the Ancyent Mariner” gets covered in some detail of course, but you can also read what  British privateer George Shelvocke of the Speedwell thought of albatrosses in 1719 when they shot “a disconsolate black Albitross” at sea in order to get a “fair wind after it’.

Less well known to me was the use of albatross feathers as “distinctive symbols of authority and status used in the highest ranks of Hawaiian society in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.”  Why have I never visited the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu on my several Hawaiian visits to view the feather-bedecked “Red Awe of Heaven” made to celebrate the birth of a prince in 1858?  Maybe next time… .  I was also unaware that the Maori and Moriori of New Zealand used albatross feathers and down as head ornaments as well as to make cloaks.

The book then moves to more recent – and destructive – exploitation, notably of the North Pacific species for their eggs and feathers (for stuffing duvets and adorning hats), culminating in the near extinction of the Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus.  Cheerfully we can report that all three North Pacific albatrosses are now showing promising signs of recovery, although still considered threatened, as reported regularly in ACAP Latest News.


Waved Albatross in art

This photograph by John Cooper appears in Graham Barwell's "Albatross"

An error or two has crept into the more biological aspects of the book.  For example, there have never been feral cats on Gough Island so the grave harm that the introduced House Mouse (click here!) continues to wreak on the island’s birds, most especially its near-endemic and Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, is not due the removal of cats.

The author is an Associate Professor in the School of the Arts, English and Media at the University of Wollongong, in New South Wales, Australia.  As befitting his position the book is well written and illustrated and is an easy read.  I enjoyed going through it, polishing it off over just a few evenings, and pretty soon will want to read it again.  I recommend it to albatross researchers and conservationists alike to round off their knowledge of these magnificent ocean flyers.

Lastly, pleasing to see ACAP Latest News gets used as one of the sources in the writing of this book!


Barwell, Graham 2014.  Albatross.  London: Reaktion Books.  Paperback.  101 illustrations, 51 in colour.  208 pp.  ISBN 978 1 78023 191 4.  GBP 9.99; AUD 24.00.

Martin, Tony 2011.  Albatrosses.  Grafton-on-Spey: Colin Baxter Photography.  72 pp.

Lindsey, Terence 2008.  Albatrosses.  Collingword: CSIRO Publishing.  139 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 June 2014

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