ACAP Breeding Site No. 49. Grand Jason Island and its Black-browed Albatrosses and Southern Giant Petrels

At 1380 ha, Grand Jason is the largest island in the Jason Islands Group, located in the north-west of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.  The topography of the island is varied, and includes steep slopes and tussac-covered west- and south-facing slopes; the main peak rises to an altitude of 361 m above sea level on the southern side of the island.



Overloking a large Black-browed Albatross colony on Grand Jason, November 1997

The uninhabited island is owned (along with neighbouring Steeple Jason) by the Wildlife Conservation Society of New York (WCS) a US-registered conservation organisation.  Previously, the island was stocked with cattle and sheep.  By 1970, the livestock had been removed, and although erosion is still evident in places, there has been some recovery of the vegetation. Fortunately, Grand Jason has remained free of rodents.  Limited tourism takes place with the prior approval of the WCS.


View over a Black-browed colony on Grand Jason, November 1997

 The south coast above a Black-browed Albatross colony with Mike Morrison and Gavin Harrison, November 2006

Black-browed Albatross nests at the edge of a colony, with many more below above the cliffs, November 2006

Grand Jason supports the third largest colony of Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris ìn the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.  An aerial photographic survey in 2010 yielded a total of 89 489 occupied nests.  During the previous aerial photographic survey, in 2006, 55 183 occupied nests were counted, representing a 62% increase over the five-year period. The Black-browed Albatross colonies are located mainly on the lower south-western- and south-facing lower slopes of the island.

Approximately 820 pairs of Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus breed on Grand Jason, on eroded ground on the coastal plain at the south-eastern tip of the island.

Windswept sand and ash from burnt-out Tussac Grass (note orange ash circles, showing original positions of the tussac bogs) at the southern point of Grand Jason; Southern Giant Petrels were breeding in the distance in November 2006

On 22 January 2013, a fire, thought to have been caused by lightning, threatened Black-browed Albatrosses and other wildlife present on the island at the time.  Fortunately, a quick response by local farmers and members of Falklands Conservation ensured that the damage was limited to a handful of Black-browed Albatross nests (click here).

Grand Jason is the largest island in the Jason Islands Group Important Bird Area.  The other islands in the group supporting Black-browed Albatross breeding populations are Elephant JasonSouth Jason and Steeple Jason.

With gateful thanks to Robin Woods for his photographs and captions.

Selected References:

Anon. 2013.  Quick thinking farmers may have saved albatross colony.  Penguin News 24(34): 13.

Catry, P., Forcada, J. & Almeida, A. 2011.  Demographic parameters of Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris from the Falkland Islands.  Polar Biology 34: 1221-1229.

[Falklands Conservation] 2006.  Important Bird Areas of the Falkland Islands.  London: Falklands Conservation.  160 pp.

Strange, I.J. 2008.  Aerial Surveys of Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris: the Methodology Employed and Comparisons with Surveys Carried out in 1986-2005-2006 and 2007.  New Island: Design in Nature & Falkland Islands Wildlife.  59 pp.

Strange, I. & Strange, G. 2011.  Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris. Aerial Photographic Survey Methodology: Advantages over Ground Surveying in the Falkland Islands. Results and Comparisons with Surveys in 2005 and 2010.  Stanley: New Island Conservation Trust.  30 pp.

Summers, D. 2005.  A Visitor’s Guide to the Falkland Islands.  Second Edition.  Falklands Conservation: London.  132 pp.

Wheeler, T. 2004.  The Falklands & South Georgia Island.  Footscray: Lonely Planet Publications.  200 pp.

Wolfaardt, A.[C.] 2012.  An Assessment of the Population Trends and Conservation Status of Black-browed Albatrosses in the Falkland Islands. 23 pp.

Wolfaardt, A.C., Rendell, N. & Brickle, P. 2010.  Falkland Islands Implementation Plan for the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP): Review of Current Work and a Prioritised Work Programme for the future.  Stanley: Falkland Islands Government.  57 pp.

Woods, R.W. & Woods, A. 1997.  Atlas of Breeding Birds of the Falkland Islands.  Oswestry: Anthony Nelson.  190 pp.

Anton Wolfaardt, Convenor, ACAP Seabird Bycatch Working Group & John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 November 2013

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

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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