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.

Contact the ACAP Information Officer if you wish to have your news featured.

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It’s complicated. Corticosterone levels in Campbell and Grey-headed Albatrosses

Caitlin Kroeger (Department of Ocean Sciences, Long Marine Lab, University of California, Santa Cruz, California, USA) and colleagues have published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology on a hormonal study of Campbell Thalassarche impavida and Grey-headed T. chrysostoma Albatrosses from Campbell Island, New Zealand

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Corticosterone (CORT) is a glucocorticoid hormone that maintains energy balance and can modulate foraging behaviors in seabirds.  However, CORT responses are not always predictable under similar biophysical conditions and do not necessarily influence the same behaviors across breeding stages and species.  To enhance our understanding of CORT’s role as a proximate determinant of foraging behavior and energy maintenance, we examined the relationships between body condition, CORT, foraging behavior, and foraging success between two sympatric breeding albatross species with differing foraging strategies and life histories, the Campbell albatross (Thalassarache [sic] impavida) and the gray-headed albatross (Thalassarache chrysostoma), from Campbell Island, New Zealand.  Pre- and postforaging CORT did not differ between species or stage, potentially as a result of behavioral plasticity or different functional roles of CORT across stages.  Unexpectedly, body condition did not correlate with preforaging CORT during incubation, although a negative correlation was observed in Campbell albatrosses during the guard stage.  Furthermore, CORT mediated foraging success in both species and stages, but CORT mediated foraging behavior only in incubation-stage Campbell albatrosses that had shorter foraging ranges with higher pretrip CORT. Additionally, CORT positively correlated with mass gain and the time elapsed since the last feeding event in guard-stage albatrosses.  Our results highlight the complexity of CORT in mediating energy balance in free-ranging animals.  Our results also support that if CORT is to be usefully interpreted, breeding stage must be considered because the physiological and behavioral functionality of CORT may differ across stages, with enhanced sensitivity to energy reserves during chick rearing.”

 

A Campbell Albatross preens its downy chick on Campbell Island, photograph by David Evans

Reference:

Kroeger, C., Crocker, D.E., Thompson, D.R., Torres, L.G., Sagar, P. & Shaffer, S.A. 2019.  Variation in corticosterone levels in two species of breeding albatrosses with divergent life histories: responses to body condition and drivers of foraging behaviour.  Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 92: 223-238.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 November 2019.

Off-leash dogs and feral cats slaughter Wedge-tailed Shearwaters on a Hawaiian island

Some 140-150 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters Ardenna pacifica have been reported killed by off-lead dogs or feral cats during this year’s breeding season on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.  According to the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources (DNLR) Division of Forestry and Wildlife the most recent incident was of at least 35 birds, mostly chicks close to fledging, with carcasses spread along coastal cliffs, including of some breeding adults.

“Six years ago, DLNR says 80 shearwaters were killed by cats and dogs over a two-month period.  Although many shearwaters are killed every year on the Garden Isle, DLNR said this year has been particularly bad, with four reported mass killings at separate locations.  In another incident at a separate colony on the south shore, at least 55 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were killed."

“These kinds of incidents happen annually, and our shearwaters cannot withstand such a high level of predation,” said Andre Raine, KESRP [Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project] Coordinator in a statement. “We urge people to keep their dogs on leashes in coastal areas and keep their cats indoors."

 

ACAP Latest News has previously reported on free-running dogs and feral cats killing Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis on Kauai (click here).

View a video clip and read more here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 November 2019

Sooty Shearwaters doing well on Kidney Island in the South Atlantic

Sooty Shearwater, photograph by West Coast Penguin Trust

Paulo Catry (Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Lisbon, Portugal) and colleagues have published in the journal Polar Biology on changes in breeding numbers of Near Threatened Sooty Shearwaters Ardenna grisea and other seabirds on a tussac island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Detecting change is necessary for effective ecosystem management, yet temporal data on key ecosystem components are lacking for many polar and subpolar regions.  For example, although the Falkland Islands hosts internationally important marine and coastal bird populations, few of these were surveyed until the late twentieth century.  The avifauna of one small island, Kidney Island, was surveyed between 1958 and 1963, however.  This typical tussac-covered island has remained free of non-native predators, so changes in its avifauna may reflect variation in the wider marine environment.  In order to obtain a rare snapshot of such changes, we re-surveyed Kidney Island’s avifauna between 2017 and 2019, counting either individuals, breeding pairs or nest sites of marine and coastal waterbirds.  Waterfowl, waders and cormorant populations were broadly stable, but several populations showed profound differences over the six decades between surveys.  In particular, Southern Rockhopper penguins Eudyptes chrysocome collapsed from > 3000 to 200 pairs, while Sooty Shearwaters Ardenna grisea expanded by two orders of magnitude.  Due to its isolation and tight fisheries management, the Falklands marine environment is assumed to be relatively pristine.  Our limited results suggest that sufficient changes may nevertheless have occurred in the region’s marine ecosystem to have detectable impacts on breeding seabirds.”

Reference:

Catry, P., Clark, T.J., Crofts, S., Stanworth, A., Wakefield, E.D. 2019.  Changes and consistencies in marine and coastal bird numbers on Kidney Island (Falkland Islands) over half a century.  Polar Biology 42: 2171-2176.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 November 2019

Pacific Rim Conservation to host a Seabird Translocation Workshop in Hawaii next year

Pacific Rim Conservation will host a free three-day workshop on seabird translocation and social attraction on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu over 19-21 May 2020.  The number of participants will be limited to 25.

The emphasis will be on “the nuts and bolts of field-based translocation techniques.  Participants will learn relevant background needed during the classroom component (1 day), and then get basic training in avian husbandry, diet preparation, and hand feeding techniques during the field-based component (1-2 days).  The goal of this workshop is to increase capacity for organizations to conduct seabird translocations in new locations and species worldwide,”

One day of lectures from Hawaiian and New Zealand experts in Honolulu will be followed by two days of field work in the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu’s north shore covering diet preparation; food storage; seabird handling; weighing, and measuring; feeding; and cleaning, sanitation and husbandry practices.

The 2018 cohort of translocated Black-footed Albatross Phoebastria nigripes chicks soon after arrival at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge

Photograph from Pacific Rim Conservation

Click here for the workshop schedule, including information on talks and presenters, and how to apply.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 November 2019

Australians and New Zealanders get voting again for Bird of the Year: Short-tails, Antipodeans or Whenua Hous?

Each year Australians and New Zealanders get the chance to vote for their favourite bird in Bird of the Year (BOTY) competitions. 

The Aussies have come up with 50 birds on their list this year; but only two on the voting list of 50 are seabirds.  These two marine birds are the Little Penguin Eudyptula minor and the only procellariiform species, the Short-tailed Shearwater Ardenna tenuirostris, a species currently of some concern as the back migration from Alaskan waters to islands around Tasmania is running late and so far very few birds are being seen, pehaps due to die-offs in the northern hemisphere (click here and here).  Might this lead to a change from its Least Concern status?

Unfortunately, the shearwater is currently coming third last in the 48th position with only 157 votes at the time of writing, so it looks very much like it will not get past the first round (nor it seems will the penguin, which is currently in the 16th position).  Albatross and petrel lovers are not completely left out, however, as the opportunity exists for a write-in species (but it “must have wings”).  ACAP-listed Shy Albatross Thalassarche cauta, endemic to Australia and globally Near Threatened, anyone?  Move fast though as at the end of the first round the 10 birds with the most votes will automatically make it to the final round of voting, and the first round closes at the end of this week on 8 November!

Over in New Zealand, often deemed the “seabird capital of the world”, the BOTY 2019 choice is far better for the fish-eaters (unlike in Australia, there are no less that 10 ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels on the BOTY list) – and the rules are rather different.  “The organiser of the annual avian electoral race, Forest & Bird, is using a Single Transferable Voting (STV) system this year where Kiwis can rank their five favourite native birds.”  Voting closes at 127h00 [local time] on this Sunday (10th). To cast your vote, click here.

Antipodean Albatross (Gibson's subspecies) on Adams Island, Auckland Islands, photograph by Colin O'Donnell

So where does the globally Endangered (and nationally Critical) Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis fit in?  It’s the first choice of ACAP’s Executive Secretary (and Kiwi), Christine Bogle of course!  Not to be outdone, New Zealand’s Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage MP has announced on her Facebook page “this year I’m officially backing the Gibson's albatross for Forest & Bird's Bird of the Year 2019”.  ACAP recognizes Gibson’s Albatross of the Auckland Islands as a subspecies, gibsoni, of the Antipodean, so that’s really two votes for a species that has been recognized as of special concern by ACAP.  It’s also a species up for listing on Appendix 1 of the Convention on Migratory Species because of its threatened status next year – as tomorrow’s post to ACAP Latest News will detail.

"Diomedea antipodensis gibsoni are among the largest of the world’s seabirds. They live to 50-60 years if they manage to avoid being hooked on a fishing longline. They only breed on the remote Auckland Islands and they fly to the seas off Chile and southern Australia to feed. Their numbers have declined dramatically and they need our help." - Eugenie Sage MP

Lastly, what about the Whenua Hou Diving Petrel Pelecanoides whenuahouensis, New Zealand’s newest (too new even to have yet got a global category of threat) and it seems, rarest seabird?  It’s not ACAP-listed but another New Zealander, Igor Debski, Co-convenor of ACAP’s Seabird Bycatch Working Group, has the “Flying Penguin” as his first choice, writing to ALN: “it’s been rather overlooked previously and at less than 100 pairs, and at high risk to climate change, I think it really needs a lift in its profile.”

But maybe all academic, yesterday’s news is that that with only a few days of voting left there the only seabird in the top five so far is the globally Endangered Yellow-eyed Penguin or Hoiho Megadyptes antipodes.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 November 2019

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