Northern Giant Petrels kill healthy Wandering Albatross chicks on Marion Island at night

Ben Dilley (Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa) and colleagues, writing on-line in the journal Polar Biology, report photographic evidence of Northern Giant Petrels Macronectes halli killing Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans chicks at night.

The paper's abstract follows:

"Giant petrels Macronectes spp. are not thought to be important predators of albatross chicks, although they are known to kill pre-fledging Thalassarche and Phoebetria albatrosses.  We report the first records of predation of healthy great albatross Diomedea spp. chicks, killing wandering albatrosses D. exulans at night on sub-Antarctic Marion Island.  Breeding success of this species has decreased markedly in the area where attacks occurred, suggesting that giant petrel predation events are a recent phenomenon.  Mouse attacks on wandering albatross chicks may have contributed to the development of this hunting technique.  We also report the first observations of giant petrel predation on pre-fledging grey-headed albatross T. chrysostoma chicks as well as additional records of sooty albatross P. fusca chicks being targeted.  Only adult northern giant petrels M. halli have been confirmed to kill albatross chicks on Marion Island.  Given the threatened status of wandering albatrosses, and the importance of Marion Island for this species, monitoring of their breeding success is necessary to assess whether the predation of chicks by giant petrels spreads around the island."

Wandering Albatross chick on Marion Island: at risk to giant petrels
Photograph by John Cooper


Dilley, B.J., Davies, D., Connan, M., Cooper, J., de Villiers, M.[S.], Swart, L., Vandenabeele, S., Ropert-Coudert, Y. & Ryan, P.G. 2013.  Giant petrels as predators of albatross chicks.  Polar Biology DOI 10.1007/s00300-013-1300-1.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 6 February 2013

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