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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Hybridization and cuckoldry between Black-browed and Grey-headed Albatrosses

Genevieve Jones (FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, South Africa) and colleagues have published in the journal Antarctic Science on a hybrid Black-browed x Grey-headed Albatross at Marion Island.

“A vagrant black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophris bred with a grey-headed albatross T. chrysostoma on Marion Island at least four times between 2000 and 2009 (and continued to return to the colony until at least 2019). The eggs failed to hatch in three breeding attempts, but the pair fledged a chick in the 2006/07 breeding season. Genetic sexing identified the black-browed albatross as female and she shared all eight sampled microsatellite alleles with the chick, whereas the grey-headed albatross social parent did not match the chick. The fledgling was banded and re-sighted in its natal breeding colony in 2016 and 2018, when it displayed an intermediate black-browed x grey-headed albatross phenotype, similar to a putative hybrid photographed at sea off Australia. These results suggest that the black-browed albatross cuckolded its social mate with another grey-headed albatross in 2006/07. The failures of the other three breeding attempts at the egg stage possibly indicate genetic incompatibility with the social partner.”

BBA x GHA hybrid 2s 

The hybrid Black-browed x Grey-headed Albatross, photograph by Chris Jones

Read an earlier ACAP Latest News post on hybridization in albatrosses.

With thanks to Chris Jones.


Jones, M.G.W., Techow, N.M.S., Risi, M.M., Jones, C.W., Hagens, Q.A., Taylor, F. & Ryan, P.G.2019.  Hybridization and cuckoldry between black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses.  Antarctic Science.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 December 2019

Brazil’s Projeto Albatroz is helping promote World Albatross Day

Estabished in 1990 in Santos, in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, Projeto Albatroz aims to reduce the incidental capture of albatrosses and petrels by pelagic longline fishing in Brazilian waters.  Towards this aim the NGO develops and conducts research into mitigation measures that reduce seabird bycatch.  It also works in partnership with governmental and educational institutions to raise awareness among fishers and the youth of marine conservation issues, especially those facing albatrosses and petrels.  The project is sponsored by Petrobras (a semi-public Brazilian multinational corporation in the petroleum industry) through its environmental programme.

Projeto Albatroz logo 

WAD Logo











Earlier this year ACAP instituted a World Albatross Day Intersessional Group with Tatiana Neves, Projeto Albatroz founder and General Coordinator (Coordenação Geral), as a member.  This allows Projeto Albatroz and ACAP to work closely together on awareness raising and activity planning as the inaugural day approaches on 19 June next year.

Tatiana Neves 3

Tatiana Neves, Projeto Albatroz General Coordinator

Tatiana Neves has written to ACAP Latest News in both English and her home language, Portuguese:

“Having a World Albatross Day is a great idea.  I have dedicated a lifetime to the conservation of albatrosses and petrels, so having a World Albatross Day, as recognition of the global importance of those magnificent birds and the threats they face, is important in increasing global awareness of the importance of actions to prevent their extinction.”

“Ter um Dia do Albatroz é uma ótima ideia.  I tenho dedicado todo uma vida para a conservação de albatrozes e petreis, e ter um Dia do Albatroz, como um reconhecimento da importância global para essas aves magníficas e das ameaças que elas enfrentam, é crucial para aumentar a consciência global sobre a importância das ações para prevenir sua extinção.”

Tatiana is a veteran of ACAP meetings, attending on both Brazilian Delegations (Brazil became a Party to ACAP by ratification in 2008) and as an observer representing Projeto Albatroz.  Currently she serves as Vice-chair of ACAP’s Advisory Committee; previously she was Vice-convenor of the ACAP Seabird Bycatch Working Group.  She has also written a coffee-table book on albatrosses in Portuguese entitled Albatroz um Projeto pela Vida, published in 2013.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 December 2019

First definite record of a House Mouse attacking an adult Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross on Gough Island

That House Mice Mus musculus have turned to attacking albatross chicks on Gough and Marion Islands has become well known – and has been regularly reported on in ACAP Latest News.  More recently, mice have been recorded attacking adult Critically Endangered Tristan Albatrosses Diomedea dabbenena on Gough and adult Northern Giant Petrels Macronectes halli on Marion (click here).  The observations published earlier this year in the journal Polar Biology gave only circumstantial evidence of mice attacking an adult of another albatross species on Gough, as stated in the paper’s abstract:  “In October 2018, an incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos was found on Gough Island with a wound on its back suggestive of a mouse attack …”.

Adult tristan albatross with back wounds from mice 2018 Left Kate Lawrence Right Jaimie Cleeland

A wounded adult Tristan Albatross in March 2018 - the bird survived; photographs by Kate Lawrence (left) and Jaimie Cleeland (right)

Definite proof of an attack on an incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (an Endangered species) on Gough now comes with a 40-s video clip showing a mouse clambering over and disappearing under the bird’s rump feathers over a period of several hours on the night of 3/4 November this year – to the bird’s obvious discomfort.

Chris Jones, field biologist of the Gough Island Restoration Programme and currently on the island, has written to ACAP Latest News:

“The bird in the video clip had a small wound on its rump and abandoned the nest the following night.  We have had trail cameras on 31[Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross] nests on the southern slopes of Richmond [Hill], collecting hundreds of hours of footage and have only captured the one mouse attack on an adult.”

AYNA mouse wound Alexis Osborne

The wounded rump of the incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross the following day, photograph by Dylan Seaton

With the intention to attempt to eradicate the mice on Gough next year, it is hoped that the island’s albatrosses – and other seabirds – will no longer have to face night-time attacks as videoed on the island last month.

With thanks to Chris Jones, Alexis Osborne, Michelle Risi and Dylan Seaton.  The Gough Island Restoration Programme is being led by the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, along with 12 partners.


Jones, C.W., Risi, M.M., Cleeland, J. & Ryan, P.G. 2019. First evidence of mouse attacks on adult albatrosses and petrels breeding on sub-Antarctic Marion and Gough Islands.  Polar Biology

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 December 2019

UPDATE. Wisdom the Laysan Albatross, and the world’s oldest known bird, is back on Midway Atoll


Wisdom Ack Nov 2019

The pair on 9 November, photograph by Emily Jankowski / USFWS

Wisdom's current mate (Akeakamai; Red G00) was seen back on Midway on 9 November, next to Wisdom (Red Z33).  It is suggested it is a bit late for an egg this season, so they may take a (deserved) gap year.


 Wisdom, a female Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis and the world's oldest known banded wild bird, has returned to the USA’s Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the northern Pacific.  She is now considered to be at least 69 years old – but could be older as she was originally banded in 1956 as an adult.

Wisdom was first sighted on 22 November this year.  “She has been preparing her nest in her usual location in anticipation her current mate [Akeakamai] will arrive soon”.

Wisdom Nov 2019

Wisdom in November 2019, photograph by William Kennerley/USFWS

“Wisdom is important not only because she is a part of a long-term study of [the] albatross population, but also because she is an individual that we can actually know and follow her personal history” according to Elizabeth (Beth) Flint, [USFWS] Supervisory Wildlife Biologist in a video clip.  “She has seen so much, and yet she is still doing what she evolved to do: surviving and raising young every year.  That makes her incredibly powerful as a symbol of why we do what we do.”

Beth Flint has been a regular member of the USA’s observer delegation to ACAP meetings over the years and is a member of the ACAP Population and Conservation Working Group.  She recently wrote on the subject of next year’s inaugural Word Albatross Day to ACAP Latest News: “While we share similar life spans and the spatial scales of our activities, ranging over vast areas of the globe, albatrosses have lived on earth in their current form tens of millions of years longer than Homo sapiens without disrupting or degrading their own habitats”.  She was probably thinking of Wisdom.

Beth Flint

Beth Flint wears Red Z333, the colour band of Wisdom

Read more here and access the many postings about Wisdom in ACAP Latest News.

Meanwhile, Midway’s other two famous birds, Geraldine and George the atoll’s only pair of breeding Short-tailed Albatrosses P. albatrus, are already back for a new season and are incubating their new egg (click here).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 November 2019, updated 10 & 11 December 2019

France’s BirdLife partner, LPO, with 55 000 members, writes about World Albatross Day

LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux) is France’s BirdLife partner.  With a century of commitment with more than 55 000 members, 5000 active volunteers, 400 employees nationwide and a network of local associations active in more than 80 departments, LPO is the premier association protecting nature in France.  It works on a daily basis for the protection of species, the preservation of spaces and for education and awareness of the environment.

Three island groups in the southern Indian Ocean belong to France, a Party to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels.  These are the Crozets, Amsterdam and Saint Paul, and Kerguelen, all administered by the French Southern and Antarctic Territories (Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises - TAAF) and protected as a national nature reserve with World Heritage status as of this year.  In total they support no less than 12 of the 22 ACAP-listed species of albatrosses and petrels.

ACAP Latest News has been in communication with LPO to solicit its support for ACAP’s initiation of an annual Word Albatross Day on 19 June, to be inaugurated next year.  Positive feedback has now been received from three members of its senior management team.

Yves Verilhac 2017.s 

Yves Vérilhac, Gironde Estuary, September 2017

Yves Vérilhac, LPO’s Chief Executive Officer, has written to ALN:

“ ‘The great wings of the giant baulk his gait’.  It is by this last line of Charles Baudelaire’s poem l’Albatros [from the translation by Roy Campbell] that the albatross was first familiar to me.  An ornithologist since ever, I have travelled a deal but never to these distant lands and seas furrowed by these ‘monarchs of the clouds’.  Here is a wish to answer, made difficult by the fact that I decided not to fly for pleasure.  Beyond these images, the French responsibility for the protection of albatrosses is great with eight species of breeding albatrosses within our territory, including the endemic and emblematic Amsterdam Albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis.  Our involvement with the environmental bodies of TAAF leads us to support the actions that are carried out there.  World Albatross Day on 19 June next year will be an excellent opportunity to talk about these species so distant but so emblematic.”

“ ‘Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher’.  C’est par ce ver de Charles Baudelaire que l’albatros m’a d’abord été familier. Ornithologue depuis toujours, j’ai beaucoup voyagé, mais jamais dans ces terres et mers lointaines que sillonnent ces ‘princes des nuées’. Voici un souhait à exaucer, rendu difficile par le fait que j’ai décidé de ne plus prendre l’avion pour le plaisir... Au-delà de ces images, la responsabilité de la France envers la protection des albatros est forte avec huit espèces d’albatros qui s’y reproduisent, dont l’endémique et emblématique Albatros d’Amsterdam. Notre participation aux instances environnementales des Terres Australes et Antarctiques françaises nous conduit à soutenir les actions qui y sont menées et la journée mondiale des albatros, le 19 juin sera une excellente occasion de parler de ces espèces si lointaines mais si emblématiques.”

 Thierry Micol

Thierry Micol, Possession Island, Crozets, November 2002

Thierry Micol, LPO’s Biodiversity, Sustainable Development, International and Overseas Senior Officer writes:

“My first encounter with albatrosses was in January 1988 when I visited Amsterdam Island with the mission of eliminating the feral cattle that threatened the Amsterdam Albatross. Arriving in the morning after a trip on the fishing lobster vessel Austral, the ornithologists already on the spot took me that same afternoon to the Plateau des Tourbières where nest the last pairs of the endemic Amsterdam Albatross.  Thirty years later, they are still threatened by rats, cats and mice, and the plan to eradicate these species throughout TAAF is of crucial importance for this species, for which only a 100 pairs remain. As a member of the TAAF National Nature Reserve Advisory Committee I can only support World Albatross Day on 19 June.”

“Ma première rencontre avec les albatros date de janvier 1988 quand je me suis rendu sur l’île Amsterdam avec pour mission d’éliminer les bovins sauvages qui menaçaient les Albatros d’Amsterdam. Arrivé le matin après un trajet sur l’Austral, navire de pêche à la langouste, les ornithologistes déjà sur place m’ont amené l’après-midi même sur le plateau des Tourbières où nichent les derniers couples de l’endémique Albatros d’Amsterdam. Trente ans plus tard ils sont toujours menacés par les rats, les chats et les souris et le projet d’éradication de ces espèces par le territoire des Terres australes et antarctiques françaises est d’une importance cruciale pour cette espèce dont il ne reste qu’une centaine de couples. En tant que membre du Comité consultatif de la Réserve naturelle national des Terres australes françaises, je ne peux que soutenir la journée mondiale des albatros, le 19 juin.”

 Yann Libessart.s

Yann Libessart gently cradles a Wandering Albatross D. exulans chick prior to banding, Kerguelen Islands in 2007, photograph by Eric Planel

Yann Libessart, LPO’s Communication Manager adds his own special memory:

“I participated in banding young albatrosses more than 10 years ago in the Kerguelen Islands.  The chicks were already impressive in size and two people were required to handle them safely. Black-browed Albatrosses shared a steep cliff with a colony of Macaroni Penguins to hide from feral cats, which were introduced by people decades ago. Despite the strong promiscuity between two bird species that look so different, both seemed to get along pretty well.  Sooty, Grey-headed and Wandering Albatrosses are also present in this remote archipelago, just like them subjected to the winds and the ocean. They were flying over us in silence.”

“J’ai participé au baguage de jeunes albatros lors de mon séjour aux îles Kerguelen, dans les Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises, il y a plus de 10 ans. Les poussins ont déjà une taille impressionnante et deux personnes sont nécessaires pour les manipuler sans risque. Les Albatros à sourcils noirs partageaient une falaise abrupte avec une colonie de Gorfous macaronis afin d’échapper aux chats harets, introduits par l’homme quelques décennies plus tôt. Malgré la forte promiscuité entre les deux espèces d’oiseaux, tant opposées sur le plan morphologique, leur cohabitation semblait pacifique. Des Albatros fuligineux, à tête grise et hurleurs fréquentent également cet archipel perdu, comme eux livré aux vents et à l’océan. Ils nous survolaient en silence.”

ACAP will work with LPO – along with other BirdLife partners in ACAP countries – in the next half a year to help raise awareness of the conservation crisis facing albatrosses and Petrels as the first World Albatross Day approaches.  Meanwhile, ornithologists on Amsterdam, Kerguelen and on the Crozet’s Possession Island have all made and displayed their World Albatross Day banners in the field.  Merci beaucoup!


John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 December 2019

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