A Wandering Albatross broods a Southern Giant Petrel chick

A recent newsletter article from Bird Island in the South Atlantic carries the strange story of a Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans brooding a Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus chick, as told here with permission by Jess Walkup:

“A wandering albatross on Bird Island has surprised the scientists there.  During a regular check on nests one bird was found to have a chick more than a month before the wanderer eggs usually hatch.  After initial confusion and checking of dates the chick was inspected more closely and found to be a southern giant petrel chick!

Southern giant petrel chicks hatch throughout January, and have recently begun to be left alone on their nests while their parents forage on the beaches.  It appears that after its own egg was broken or predated [sic], the female wanderer moved to the giant petrel nest, a few meters away, and ‘adopted’ her neighbour’s chick.  Cross-species adoption is rarely observed in the wild in birds.  The female albatross brooding the chick was herself hatched in 2001 and has not been recorded on the island since then, and although a male albatross had been observed on the original wanderer nest, it has not been seen since the female began brooding the petrel chick.  The scientists say she is very protective of her new ward, but it remains to be seen whether she will attempt to feed the chick, or the chicks’ rightful parents return to claim it.

This is the first case of inter-species adoption (or perhaps “chick-napping”?) that has been seen on Bird Island so they are monitoring its progress closely.”

It is now reported that the chick has died.

Wandering Albatross broods a giant petrel chick, photograph by Jess Walkup

With thanks to Jessica Walkup, Zoological Field Assistant, Bird Island and Richard Phillips, British Antarctic Survey.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 March 2014

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

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