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Wandering albatross

Diomedea exulans Linnaeus,1758

Albatros hurleur
Albatros viajero


Updated on 6-Aug-2008
Critically Endangered Endangered Vulnerable Near Threatened Least Concern Not Listed
Sometimes referred to as
Snowy albatross

Any signifies a link showing the relevant reference.


Taxonomy

OrderProcellariiformes
FamilyDiomedeidae
GenusDiomedea
SpeciesD. exulans

Species   D. exulans

 
Debate has long surrounded the taxonomy of the Wandering Albatross which until the early 1980’s was thought to be one species: Diomedea exulans (Linnaeus 1758). In 1983, Roux et al. [1 ] then proposed, based on size and plumage maturation data, that the Wandering-type albatross breeding on Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean was a separate species (Diomedea amsterdamensis). Later Warham [2 ] argued that D. amsterdamensis should be considered a subspecies of D. exulans and also proposed four additional subspecies within the complex: Diomedea exulans exulans, D. e. chionoptera, plus two others subspecies later named D. e. antipodensis and D. e. gibsoni by Robertson & Warham [3 ]. Following rules of taxonomic precedence, Medway [4 ] argued that the large, high latitude form should be named D. e. exulans (replacing chionoptera) while the smaller birds of the Tristan-Gough group be called D .e. dabbenena (replacing exulans). Robertson & Nunn [5 ] did not adopt this nomenclature when they elevated the five subspecies to species level (Diomedea exulans; D. chionoptera; D. amsterdamensis; D. antipodensis and D. gibsoni), however Gales [6 ] and Croxall & Gales [7 ] followed Medway’s [4 ] nomenclature and also recognised five species (Diomedea exulans; D. dabbenena; D. amsterdamensis; D. antipodensis and D. gibsoni). A detailed genetic study by Burg & Croxall [8 ] showed four distinct taxa: Diomedea exulans; D. dabbenena; D. amsterdamensis plus D. antipodensis and D. gibsoni as a single grouping. Most recent publications recognise Diomedea exulans, D. dabbenena and D. amsterdamensis as full species [e.g. 9, 10, 11, but see 12 ], however, the treatment of D. antipodensis and D. gibsoni currently varies between a single species, two subspecies, and two species [e.g. 9, 11, 13, 14 ]. At the second meeting of the ACAP Advisory Committee in 2006 it was decided that available data did not justify the recognition of D. antipodensis and D. gibsoni as separate species and therefore these taxa were subsumed under the single name D. antipodensis (Antipodean Albatross) [15 ].

 


Conservation Listings and Plans

International
• Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels – Annex 1 [
16 ]
•  2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – Vulnerable (since 2000) [17 ]
• Convention on Migratory Species - Listed Species (Appendix II) [18 ]

National - Australia
• Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC ACT) [19 ]
    - Listed Threatened Species – Vulnerable
    - Listed Migratory Species
    - Listed Marine Species
• Recovery Plan for Albatrosses and Petrels (2001) [20 ]
• Threat abatement plan for the incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations (2006) [21 ]

National - France
• Ministerial Order of 14 August 1998 (Arrêté du 14 août 1998) [22 ]
    - Listed Protected Species

National - South Africa
• Sea Birds and Seals Protection Act, 1973 (Act No. 46 of 1973) (SBSPA) [23 ]
• Policy on the Management of Seals, Seabirds and Shorebirds: 2007 [24 ]
• National Plan of Action (NPOA) for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (Draft 2002, under revision 2008) [25 ]

Regional - Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)
• Falkland Islands FAO National Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds In Longline Fisheries 2004 [26 ]
• Falkland Island Dependencies Conservation Ordinance 1975 [27 ]

Regional - Tasmania
• Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 [28 ]
    - Listed Species - Endangered
 


Breeding Biology

Diomedea exulans is a biennial breeding species, although about 30% of successful and 35% of failed breeders (on average) defer breeding beyond the expected year [29 ]. The total breeding season just exceeds one year (Table 1). Adults return to colonies in November, about 27 days before laying [30 ]. Eggs are laid over a period of about 5 weeks during December – January, hatching mostly in March after mean incubation of 78-79 days [30 ]. On South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur), most chicks fledge in December after 278 days in the nest, but about a week less on Crozet Islands [30 ].  
 
Birds usually return to colonies when 5-7 years old, although they can be as young as 3 years on South Georgia (Georgias del Sur)[31 ] and as old as 14 years on Crozet Islands [32 ].   On Crozet Islands, D. exulans begin breeding when at least 7 years old (mean age 9.6 years for females and 10.4 years for males for 9 cohorts between 1982 and 1990) [33 ], and on South Georgia (Georgias del Sur) when at least 8 years old (mean age 10.4 years for females and 10.7 years for males for 1972 – 1980 cohorts) but had decreased by 1.3-1.6 years per decade by 1996 [29 ].
 
 
 Table 1. Breeding cycle of D.exulans.
 

 
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
At colonies
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Egg laying
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Incubating
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Chick provisioning
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Breeding States

Table 2. Distribution of the global D. exulans population among Parties to the Agreement that have jurisdiction over the breeding sites of ACAP listed species.  

 
 
Disputed*
 
Argentina
 
Australia
 
Chile
 
Ecuador
 
France
New Zealand
South Africa
United Kingdom
Breeding pairs
18%
*
<1%
-
-
38%
-
44%
*
 

 

 

 

*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 e Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.


Breeding Sites

Diomedea exulans breed on the French subantarctic island groups of Crozet and Kerguelen, on South Africa’s Prince Edward Islands, Australia’s Macquarie Island and on South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur) (Table 2, Figure 1). The total annual breeding population, based on a combination of published and unpublished data submitted to ACAP in 2007, is estimated at approximately 8,050 pairs (Table 3).  This is 5 percent less than the 1998 figure of 8,500 pairs, thought to represent about 28,000 mature individuals and a total population of 55,000 [6 ]. The three island groups in the Indian Ocean sector (Prince Edward, Crozet and Kerguelen) account for approximately 82% of the global population. Approximately 3,580 pairs, or 44% of the total population, breed on the Prince Edward Islands Group (including Marion Island). At the other extreme, the Macquarie Island population numbers only 5-10 breeding pairs annually. 

 

Table 3. Monitoring methods and estimates of the population size (annual breeding pairs) for each breeding site. Table based on unpublished Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water (DPIW) data (Macquarie Island), unpublished British Antarctic Survey (BAS) data (Bird Island), unpublished Robert JM Crawford and Bruce M Dyer data (Marion Island), unpublished H.Weimerskirch, CNRS Chizé Monitoring Database data (Ile de la Possession, Courbet Peninsula, Leygues Island), and published references as indicated.
 

Breeding site
Jurisdiction
Annual Breeding pairs (last census)
Macquarie Island
54° 30’S, 158° 55’E
Australia
1964-2008
A
High
5 (2008)
Total
% of all sites
 
 
 
 
5
0.1%
Crozet Islands
46° 26’S, 51° 47’E
Ile de la Possession
 
 
 
Ile aux Cochons
Ile de l’Est
Îles des Apôtres
France
1960,1968-1969,1975-1977, 1981-2008
1976
1982
1982
A
A
A
A
High
High
High
high
 
349 (2008)
1,060 (1998) [6 ]
329 (1982) [34 ]
120 (1982) [34 ]
Total
% of all sites
 
 
 
 
1,858
23.1%
Kerguelen Islands
49° 09’S, 69° 16’E
Courbet Peninsula
 
 
Rallier du Baty Peninsula
 
Joffre Peninsula and Is, Howe Is, other islets
Nuageuses Is. Baie Larose
Leygues Is
France
 
 
1971, 1985, 1987, 1989-1993,
1996-2007
1987
 
1987
1985
1986
A
A
 
A
A
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
 
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
385 (2007)
 
750 (1987) [35 ]
35 (1987) [35 ]
14 (1985) [35 ]
3 (1986)
Total
% of all sites
 
 
 
 
1,187
14.7%
Prince Edward Island
46° 38’S, 37° 57’E
Marion Island
46° 54’S, 37° 45’E
South Africa
1984, 2002
 
1975-2007
A
 
A
High
 
High
1,850 (2002) [36 ]
 
1,730 (2007)
Total
% of all sites
 
 
 
 
3,580
44.5%
South Georgia (Georgias del Sur)
54° 00’S, 38° 36’W
Bird Island
Albatross Island
Annekov Island
Prion Island
Saddle Island
Cape Alexandra
Other sites
Disputed*
1972-2007
1984,2004
1984,2004
1984,2004
1984,2004
1984,2004
1984,2004
A
A
A
A
A
A
A
High
High
High
High
High
High
High
 
802 (2007)
155 (2004) [37 ]
193 (2004) [37 ]
43 (2004) [37 ]
40 (2004) [37 ]
40 (2004) [37 ]
147 (2004) [37 ]
Total
% of all sites
 
 
 
 
1,420
17.6%
Total for all sites
 
 
 
 
8,050

* see Table 2 footnote

 

Breeding site name Jurisdiction Latitude Longitude Size of breeding site (hectares)
Albatross Island (SGSSI (IGSISS)), Albatross Island (SGSSI (IGSISS)) Disputed 54° 00' 09" S 37° 19' 54" W 10,000
Annenkov Island, Annenkov Island Disputed 54° 29' 34" S 37° 03' 50" W 140,000
Baie Larose, Kerguelen (Grande Terre) France 49° 35' S 69° 25' E 200,000
Baudin Islets, Baudin islets France 48° 53' S 69° 27' E
Bird Island (SGSSI (IGSISS)), Bird Island (SGSSI (IGSISS)) Disputed 54° 00' 22" S 38° 02' 27" W 50,000
Briand Island, Briand island France 48° 54' S 69° 26' E
Courbet Peninsula, Kerguelen (Grande Terre) France 49° 09' S 70° 22' E 6,000,000
Crescent Island, Crescent Island Disputed 54° 00' 53" S 37° 18' 60" W
Dayman Island, Dayman island France 48° 50' S 69° 32' E
Francis island, Francis island France 49° 00' S 69° 39' E
Grande Coulée, Kerguelen (Grande Terre) France 49° 40' 25" S 68° 45' 10" E
Hallet Island, Hallet island France 48° 53' S 69° 29' E
Howe Island, Howe Island France 48° 52' S 69° 25' E
Ile aux Cochons, Ile aux Cochons France 46° 05' S 50° 15' E 660,000
Ile de l'Est, Ile de l'Est France 46° 25' S 52° 10' E 1,300,000
Ile de la Possession, Ile de la Possession France 46° 24' S 51° 45' E 1,460,000
Ile des Apotres, Ile des Apotres France 45° 58' S 50° 27' E 80,000
Iles Leygues , Iles Leygues France 48° 41' S 69° 29' E 240,000
Iles Nuageuses, Iles Nuageuses & Clugny France 48° 38' S 68° 39' E 2,400,000
Inner Lee Island, Inner Lee Island Disputed 54° 02' 31" S 37° 15' 25" W
Invisible Island, Invisible Island Disputed 54° 01' 03" S 37° 18' 33" W
Joffre Peninsula, Kerguelen (Grande Terre) France 49° 05' S 69° 30' E 2,000,000
Kupriyanov Islands, Kupriyanov Islands Disputed 54° 45' 49" S 36° 19' 42" W
Mac Murdo island, Mac Murdo island France 48° 53' S 69° 24' E
Macquarie Island, Macquarie Island Australia 54° 37' 11" S 158° 51' 39" E
Marion Island, Marion Island South Africa 46° 54' S 37° 45' E 29,000
Mollymawk Island, Mollymawk Island Disputed 54° 00' 39" S 37° 18' 45" W
Northwest, South Georgia Disputed 54° 19' 35" S 36° 49' 50" W 7,500,000
Nunez Peninsula and Cape Rosa, South Georgia Disputed 54° 19' 35" S 36° 49' 50" W 1,300,000
Outer Lee Island, Outer Lee Island Disputed 54° 01' 56" S 37° 13' 59" W
Petrel Island, Petrel Island Disputed 54° 02' 18" S 37° 17' 00" W
Pingouins Island, Ile des Pingouins France 46° 25' S 50° 25' E
Prince de Galles Peninsula, Kerguelen (Grande Terre) France 49° 26' S 70° 42' E 300,000
Prince Edward Island, Prince Edward Island South Africa 46° 38' S 37° 57' E 4,500
Prion Island, Prion Island Disputed 54° 01' 22" S 37° 15' 06" W
Proud Island, Proud Island Disputed 54° 00' 35" S 38° 08' 13" W
Rallier du Baty Peninsula, Kerguelen (Grande Terre) France 49° 35' S 68° 50' E 2,700,000
Saddle Island, Saddle Island Disputed 54° 08' 25" S 37° 44' 52" W 10,000
Samuel Island, Samuel Islands Disputed 54° 11' 17" S 37° 37' 14" W
Sibbald island, Sibbald island France 48° 55' S 69° 36' E
Skua Island, Skua Island (SGSSI (IGSISS)) Disputed 54° 01' 10" S 37° 14' 55" W
South Coast, South Georgia Disputed 54° 19' 35" S 36° 49' 50" W 10,000,000
Veau Marin island, Veau Marin island France 48° 56' S 69° 37' E

Conservation Listings and Plans for the Breeding Sites

International
Macquarie Island
• UNESCO World Heritage List (inscribed 1997) [
38 ]
• UNSECO Biosphere Reserve - Man and the Biosphere Programme (listed 1977) [39 ]

Prince Edward Islands
• RAMSAR Convention List of Wetlands of International Importance (inscribed 2007) [40 ]


National - South Africa
Prince Edward Islands
• Special Nature Reserve - Environment Conservation Act (No. 73 of 1989), declared in 1995 [41 ]
• Prince Edward Islands Management Plan 1996 [42 ]

National - France
Crozet and Kerguelen Islands
• National Nature Reserve (Décret no 2006-1211) [43 ]

National – Australia
Macquarie Island
• Register of Critical Habitat - listed 2002 (EPBC Act 1999) [44 ]
• Register of the National Estate (until February 2012) – listed 1977 (Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975) [45 ]
• National Heritage List – listed 2007 (EPBC Act 1999) [44 ]

Regional – French Southern and Antarctic Territories (Terres australes et antarctiques françaises, TAAF)
Ilots des Apõtres
• Controlled access areas (Arrêté 15 du 30 juillet 1985) [46 ]

Regional – South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)
• South Georgia Environmental Management Plan [47 ]
• South Georgia: Plan for Progress. Managing the Environment 2006 – 2010 [48 ]

Bird Island, Albatross Island and Annekov Island
• Specially Protected Area (SPA) - South Georgia: Plan for Progress. Managing the Environment 2006 – 2010 [48 ]

Regional – Tasmania
Macquarie Island
• Nature Reserve - Nature Conservation Act 2002 [49 ]
• Macquarie Island Nature Reserve and World Heritage Area Management Plan 2006 [50 ]
• Plan for the Eradication of Rabbits and Rodents on Subantarctic Macquarie Island 2007 [51 ]
 


Population Trends

Long term population studies have been conducted on all five islands or island groups where D. exulans breed (Table 4). All populations have shown a decrease at some stage over the last 25 years. The Indian Ocean populations (Crozet, Kerguelen and Prince Edward Islands) have increased recently, whereas the South Georgia population has shown a continuous decline.   The status of the extremely small population on Macquarie Island is currently uncertain, with relative trends in numbers and survival in the past similar to those observed in the Indian Ocean populations, prior to an apparent decline in recent years.

South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)
The Bird Island population, which accounted for approximately 60% of the South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur) population in 2004 [37 ], has been monitored continuously since 1972.  Since then, it has been declining at an average rate of 1.4% [52 ] per year (Table 4).  The steady average annual decline of 0.61% between 1972 and 1996 has recently accelerated to c. 4.8% per annum since 1996 [52 ] (Figure 2). Poncet et al (2006) [37 ] have recorded an overall decrease of c. 30% from 1984 to 2004 at Bird Island and at the other 29 breeding sites on South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)
 
Between 1977 and 1990, breeding success on Bird Island had increased by approximately 1.2% pa, or 15% overall [29 ]. Between 1991 and 1995 it decreased slightly (median values of 68% vs 71 % for the previous 5 year period) [29 ]. Mean success between 1976-2004 at Bird Island was 67%, compared with over 70% between 2000-2002 at Albatross Island, and between 1999-2000 at Prion Island (Poncet unpublished, Table 5). Juvenile survival of around 50% is comparable to the other breeding sites [29 ]. Adult survival however is the lowest of all breeding sites at 92.6% (Table 5), down from 94% between 1972-1985 [53 ]. This decrease in survival rates is contributing to the population decline and is linked to the development of longline fisheries targeting species other than tuna in the mid to late 1990s [29 ].
 
Crozet Islands and Kerguelen
The breeding population of D. exulans on Ile de la Possession (Crozet Islands) has been one of the most closely monitored of all albatross populations, with long term demographic data collected for a large number of birds. This population decreased steeply during the 1970s (around 7% pa between 1970 and 1976), then more moderately during the early 1980s (1.4 % pa from 1977 to 1985) [54 ]. By 1986, the population has been reduced by 53.8% from c. 500 pairs observed in the late 1960s[54 ]. Between 1986 and 2004 the population has increased steadily at 1.6% (Figure 3, Table 4) [55 ]. Over the last few years the numbers have been maintained at 300 to 380 pairs (unpublished data, CNRS Chizé Monitoring Database). 
 
Breeding success and adult and juvenile survival have also increased since 1985 after a period of reduced adult, and to a lesser extent juvenile survival in the 1970s [54, 56 ]. Although demographic data is lacking for the Kerguelen Islands, the population trend has followed a similar pattern to that at Crozet Islands [56 ]. The Courbet Peninsula population declined from c. 500 pairs in 1971 to c. 200 pairs in 1987, and then recovered to over 300 pairs in 1996, reaching 385 breeding pairs in 2007 (unpublished data, CNRS Chizé Monitoring Database).
 
The slow upward trend for both island groups is a reflection of improved adult survival and recruitment attributed to the Japanese long-line southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus spp.) fishery in the Indian Ocean moving away from the islands [56 ].
 
Prince Edward and Marion Island
The number of D. exulans breeding pairs on Marion Island have also decreased steadily from the mid 1970s to mid 1980s (at -1.5% pa) and then increased through the 1990s at c. 5.5% pa [57 ], but this rate of increase has not been sustained in recent years. Instead, the population has been declining at an average of 1.5% per year [52 ] between 1998 and 2007 (Figure 3). The overall average rate of population increase since 1975 has been less than 0.5% per year [52 ] (Table 5). 
 
Breeding success on Marion Island has fallen from an average of 74.6% between 1985 and 2001 [58 ] to 67.7% for 2002-2007 (Table 5). Juvenile survival has been estimated, but rates are not directly comparable with other islands because of the inclusion of different age classes in analyses.   Adult survival since 1985 (to 2001) has been calculated at 94.2% [58 ].    Long term census data has not been collected on Prince Edward Island.

 

Table 4. Summary of population trend data for the main D. exulans populations. 
 
Breeding site
Current Monitoring
Trend Years
% average change per year [52 ] 
(95% Confidence Interval)
Sample size monitored
Macquarie Island
yes
1964-2008
1965-1984
1984-1999
1999-2008
-
-9.32% (-7.79, - 10.85)
6.25 (4.17, 8.33)
-4.27 (0.16, -8.70)
Variable
Declining
Increasing
Uncertain
100%
100%
100%
100%
South Georgia
Bird Island
 
 
Albatross Island
Annekov Island
 
yes
 
 
no
no
 
1972-2007^
1972-1996^
1996-2007
1984, 2004
1984, 2004
 
-1.38 (-1.42, -1.30)
-0.61 (-0.47, -0.75)
-4.77 (-5.10, -4.44)
-
-
 
Declining
Declining
Declining
-
-
 
100%
100%
100%
-
-
Prince Edward Island
Marion Island
 
no
yes
 
1984, 2002
1975-2007^
1998-2007
-
0.41 (0.29, 0.53)
-1.50 (-0.99, -2.01)
Unknown
Increasing
Declining
-
100%
100%
Crozet Islands
Île de la Possession
 
Île aux Cochons
Île de l’Est
Îles des Apôtres
 
yes
 
no
no
no
 
1969-1985^
1986-2004
-
-
-
 
-3.0 (-4.6, -1.4) [55 ]
1.6 (0.6, 2.6) [55 ]
-
-
-
 
Declining*
Increasing*
-
-
-
 
100%
100%
-
-
-
Kerguelen Islands
Courbet Peninsula
Rallier du Baty Peninsula
yes
no
 
 
1971-2007
-
 
-
-
 
 
Currently Declining?*
-
 
 
100%
-
^ missing data: Bird Island 1975; Marion Island 1976, 1978-1981; Ile de la Possession 1969-1974, 1978
*trend not calculated in this assessment

 

Macquarie Island
The discovery of numerous albatross bones in a cave on the west coast of the island suggests that prior to Macquarie Island being used as a sealing base in the 1800s the D. exulans population was much larger than the current 5-10 annual breeding pairs [59, 60 ]. This extremely small population has approached extinction at least twice in the last 100 years [59, 60 ]. A long term demographic study began in 1994 but data extracted from historical logbooks going back to 1964 suggests numbers of breeding pairs have fluctuated considerably since the 1960s, with a maximum of 28 in 1968 and minimum of 2 in 1985 [60 ] (Figure 4). After a period of decline during the 1970s and early 1980s (at 9.32% pa between 1965 and 1984 [52 ], Table 4), the population has been recovering at an average of 6.25% per year between 1984 and 1999 [52 ] (Table 4). However, given the high variability in counts, the underlying trend since 1999 is not clear-cut, with no significant increase or decline (Table 4). 
 
Breeding success data has been collected continuously since 1964 and varies from 29 to 100%, currently averaging 63.5% ([60 ] and unpublished DPIW data). Most chicks that fledged between 1955 and 1994 were banded, and all chicks and most unbanded adults have been banded since 1995 [60 ]. Juvenile survival has varied significantly between 1955 and 1998, but has been increasing in most years since 1979 [60 ]. Recent estimates put juvenile survival at 45.9 % (Table 5). As for the Atlantic Ocean sites, the population fluctuations have been underpinned by changes in (mostly) juvenile survival which coincided with changes in bluefin tuna long-line fishing effort in the Southern Ocean [59, 60 ]. Adult survival has been more stable than juvenile survival in the same period and latest estimates of 95.3% [60 ] are the highest of any breeding site (but note the different time periods). 

 

Table 5. Demographic data for the main D. exulans breeding sites. Table based on unpublished DPIW data (Macquarie Island), Poncet, unpublished (South Georgia/Georgias del Sur) and published references where indicated.
 

Breeding site
Mean breeding success (±SD; Years)
Mean juvenile survival
(±SE; Years)
Mean adult survival
(±SD; Years)
Macquarie Island
63.5% (±16.9; 1964-2006)
45.9% (±3.5; 1955-2004)1 [60 ]
95.3% (±0.6 SE; 1955-2004)[60 ]
South Georgia (Georgias del Sur)
Bird Island
Albatross Island
Prion Island
 
 
67.0% (±1.0 SE;1976-2004)
72.0% (2000-2002)
74.0% (1999,2000)
 
 
48.9-52.4% (1972-1993)2 [29 ]
No data
No data
 
 
92.6% (1976-2000)
No data
No data
Marion Island

74.6% (±4.2; 1985-2001) [58 ]

89.9% (±0.4; 1988-2000)3 [58 ]
 
No data
94.2% (±0.8; 1985-2001) [58 ]
 
No data
 
Prince Edward Island
67.7% (±12.3; 2002-2007)
No data
Crozet Islands
Ile de la Possession [54 ]
 
68.5% (±11.2; 1966-1993)
73.6% (±0.7; 1981-2005) [55 ]
 
38.2% (±13.9 SD; 1966-1993)2
 
93.1% (±1.8; 1966-1995)
Kerguelen Islands
(1999-2008)
Annually since 1999
Annually since 1999

1 survival to first resighting
2 survival to 5 years of age
3 survival to 10 years of age

 


Breeding Sites: Threats

 All breeding sites of D. exulans are legally protected and access is restricted. 

 

Table 6. Summary of known threats at the breeding sites of D. exulans. Table based on information submitted to the ACAP Breeding Sites Workign Group in 2008.

 
Breeding site
 
Human disturbance
 
Human take
 
Natural disaster
Parasite or Pathogen
Habitat loss or degradation
Predation by alien species
 
Contamination
Macquarie Island
No
No
No
No
No a
No a
No
South Georgia
No
No
No
No
? b
No c
No d
Prince Edward Island
Marion Island
No
 
No
No
 
No
No
 
No
No
 
No
No
 
No
No
 
No
No
 
No
Crozet Islands
Ile de la Possession
Ile aux Cochons
Ile de l’Est
No
 
No
No
No
 
No
No
No
 
No
No
No
 
No
No
No
 
No e
No e
No
 
Low c
 No
No
 
No
No
Kerguelen Islands
Rallier du Baty Peninsula
Courbet Peninsula
Joffre Peninsula
Howe Island
Baie Larose
 
No
 
No
 
No
 
No
No
 
 
 
No
 
No
 
No
 
No
No
 
 
 
No
 
No
 
No
 
No
No
 
 
No
 
No
 
No
 
No
No
 
No e
 
No e
 
No e
 
No e
No e
Low c
 
Low c
 
Low c
 
No
Low c
 
 
No
 
No
 
No
 
No
No

 a Cats have been removed from Macquarie Island by 2000, and the eradication of rabbits and rodents is planned for 2010 [51 ].

 b There has bee extensive habitat loss and degradation at South Georgia (Georgias del Sur) due to activities of Antarctic Fur Seal Arctocephalus gazella (J. Croxall pers. comm.).
 
c Predation by cats occurs on Kerguelen Islands and on Ile aux Cochons. Rats are found on Kerguelen Islands, Ile de la Possession and South Gerogia (Georgias del Sur), while mice are present on Ile de la Possession, Ile aux Cochons and Kerguelen Islands but there is no evidence of impact on D. exualns from either speciesat any of the sites.
 
d A couple of birds have been reported with oil contamination (UK reports to CCAMLR).
 
e Rabbits on Ile aux Cochons and Ile de l’Est (Crozet Islands) as well as on Rallier du Baty Peninsula, Courbet Peninsula, Joffre Peninsula and Howe Island (Kerguelen Islands) cause browsing damage to the vegetation, and reindeer on Courbet Peninsula, Joffre Peninsula and at Baie Larose browse and trample the habitat but these impacts have not been reported to affect the D. exulans populations to a large degree.  

Threats

Nature of threat Threat sub-category Severity of threat Scope of threat Breeding site name Threat species
Predation by alien species Predation by alien species Low High Courbet Peninsula Felis catus
Predation by alien species Predation by alien species Low Low Marion Island Mus musculus
Predation by alien species Predation by alien species Low High Courbet Peninsula Felis catus
Predation by alien species Predation by alien species Low Low Marion Island Mus musculus
Predation by alien species Predation by alien species Low High Courbet Peninsula Felis catus

Foraging Ecology and Diet

Diomedea  exulans are mostly diurnal feeders [61 ], taking most prey by surface seizing [62 ]Diomedea exulans are well known for following fishing vessels, often in large groups and vigorously competing for fisheries discards. Fish and cephalopods are the main components of the D. exulans diet, with a wide variety of species caught or scavenged (c. 50 squid species and c. 10 fish species) [63-70 ]. Patagonian toothfish Dissostichus eleginoides is the primary fish species in the diet, potentially obtained as discarded offal [68 ]

 The D. exulans diet on Bird Island, South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur), is perhaps the best documented. During brood-guard period, in March-April (2000), fish dominated the diet by mass (45.6%) and occurred in 66.6% of samples, with Patagonian toothfish the main species in terms of mass (34.3%, in 11.1% of samples). Cephalopods contributed 32% by mass (66.6% of samples), Kondakovia longimana alone making up 30.1% of total mass in 11.1% of samples [65 ].  Crustaceans, mostly krill (Euphasia superba), were also important, comprising 12.4% of total diet by mass in 33.3% of samples, with jellyfish (Scyphozoa) providing 9.9% of diet by mass in 22.2% of samples [65 ].
 
During chick-rearing in May-July (1999-2000), a study comparing inter-annual variation in foraging preferences found that fish also dominated the diet by mass in both years (53.1 – 84.4% in 83 – 100% of samples). Patagonian toothfish was again the most important species (43.4% in 1999, 63.1% in 2000), with Cephalopods (predominantly K. longimana) accounting for 11.3% (2000) to 42.1% (1999) of diet and occurring in 50-83% of the samples. Compared with the brood-guard period however, crustaceans and jellyfish were very rare, with carrion a minor item at around 4% of total mass collected [66 ].
 
Squid (mainly Moroteuthis ingens) were the preferred food source (72.4% of fresh mass in 91.7% of samples) of D. exulans on Ile de la Possession during chick-rearing (July), and fish (mostly D. eleginoides) accounted for 24.3% of the diet (41.7% of samples), with carrion a minor item at 3.3% [67 ]. On Marion Island D. exulans also mostly consumed cephalopods (58.6% by mass, 96% of samples), and fish (36.5% by mass, 60% of samples) [69 ]. Analysis of dietary material from Macquarie Island revealed 18 cephalopod species (some likely to have been ingested secondarily) but no fish remains [71 ]

Marine Distribution

This wide ranging species has a circumpolar distribution, and both breeding and non-breeding birds have very large foraging ranges. Satellite tracking data indicate that breeding birds forage at very long distances from colonies (up to 4,000 km) and that foraging strategies change throughout the breeding season [72 ].  

During early incubation, D. exulans from Crozet, Kerguelen and Prince Edward Islands forage over pelagic waters between the Antarctic continent and subtropical latitudes [56, 72, 73 ]Males breeding on Crozet forage in the Kerguelen shelf area, but not females [56 ]Females forage further from the islands and in warmer waters [67, 72-74 ]During late incubation and early post-hatching, foraging is reduced to the edge of the island shelf in close proximity to the breeding grounds [73, 74 ]. During early chick rearing, the foraging ranges of Marion and Crozet birds (c. 1000km apart) are almost totally non-overlapping [58 ]. During later stages of chick-rearing, D. exulans forage in short trips close to the colony in neritic waters, or in long trips far from the colony in oceanic waters to the north [67, 73, 74 ]   
 
Non-breeding and juvenile birds remain north of 50°S between subantarctic and subtropical waters with a significant proportion crossing the Indian Ocean to wintering grounds around the southern and eastern coast of Australia [75, 76 ].  

Breeding D. exulans from South Georgia(Islas Georgias del Sur) range widely between southern Brazil (25°S) and the Antarctic Peninsula (68°S), and between waters off Tristan de Cunha (19°W) to the Patagonian Shelf in the west and up to 85°W off the Pacific coast off southern Chile [66, 77 ], almost entirely in waters deeper than 1000m [78 ]. During the brooding period however, (March to Mid-May), foraging trips are mostly restricted to the South Georgia shelf and shelf-slope areas [77 ]. From May to October, chick rearing adults of both sexes spread out to upwelling areas over the outer slope of the Patagonian Shelf [77, 79 ].   Just like their counterparts in the Indian Ocean, females tend to focus on the more northerly areas, particularly east of the mouth of Rio de la Plata and east of Peninsula Valdez. Males are more common in the south, along the southern boundary from Diego Ramirez to Burdwood Bank. There is substantial overlap but males are rare north of Rio de la Plata and females seldom venture into the south western sector between Staten Island and Diego Ramirez [79 ]. The southern Patagonian Shelf is utilised by non-breeding birds also, and hence is an important foraging area all year round [80 ].

Outside the breeding season, recoveries and limited satellite tracking data indicate initial dispersal across the South Atlantic Ocean to areas off South Africa on the coastal shelf, shelf-slope and adjacent oceanic, followed by migration across the Indian Ocean to winter in south-eastern Australian waters [77 ].
 
Given the small size of the population, only limited numbers of D. exulans from Macquarie Island have been tracked. Breeding females during incubation foraged north of Macquarie Island in waters surrounding southern Tasmania. Males foraged in the open waters of the Southern Ocean, south of 50° S and mirroring the spatial segregation seen in other populations. Juvenile and subadult birds were concentrated in lower latitudes north and east of Macquarie Island in Pacific waters, the south east coast of Australia and the New Zealand waters. A single adult tracked during the winter non breeding dispersal showed a circumpolar distribution (R. Alderman pers. comm.; DPIW unpublished data). 
 
Diomedea exulans overlap with six Regional Fisheries Management Organisations known to be particularly important to albatross and petrel conservation, but principally the WCPFC, CCAMLR, CCSBT, IOTC and ICCAT which encompass or are close to the breeding sites (Figure 1; Table 7). The species also overlaps with SWIOFC (South-West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission), SIOFA (Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement), and SEAFO (South-East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation), aimed at ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources other than tuna. Although those RFMOs are principally responsible for trawl and artisanal fisheries where albatross mortality is not well documented, SEAFO also manages some pelagic species like the Patagonian toothfish.   Consultations are also currently underway to establish the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO) that would cover both pelagic and demersal fisheries in the region (predominantly discrete high seas stocks and those stocks which straddle the high seas and the EEZs of coastal states) and which overlap with D. exulansFrance, South Africa, Australia and UK/Argentina are the principal Range States for D. exulans(Figure 1; Table 7). 
 
Table 7. Summary of the known ACAP Range States, non-ACAP Exclusive Economic Zones and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations that overlap with the marine distribution of D. exulans.  Brazil has signed the Agreement in June 2001, but is yet to ratify it.
 
 
Frequency of occurrence in region
Resident/ Breeding and feeding rangeForaging range onlyFew records - outside core foraging range

Known ACAP Range StatesAustralia
France
South Africa
Chile
New Zealand
Brazil
Uruguay

Non ACAP Range StatesDisputed

Regional Fisheries Management OrganisationsWCPFC
CCAMLR
CCSBT
SIOFA
SWIOFC
IOTC
IATTC
ICCAT
SEAFO
SPRFMO

Exclusive Economic Zones of non-ACAP countriesNamibia

CCAMLR - Comission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
CCSBT - Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna
IOTC - Indian Ocean Tuna Commission
IATTC - Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission
ICCAT - International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas
SPRFMO - South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation
SEAFO - South-East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation
SWIOFC - South-West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission
SIOFA - Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement
WCPFC - Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission

Marine Threats

The major threat affecting D. exulans (as with many other albatross and petrel species) is incidental mortality in long-line fishing operations. The growth of the southern bluefin tuna long-line fishery in the Southern Ocean until the mid 1980s and subsequent development of the Patagonian toothfish long-line fishery coincided with the steady decline of D. exulans populations at Crozet, Kerguelen and Marion Island [56, 57 ]. Although the increased adult survival and upward trends in the Crozet population since the 1980s are thought to be related to the tuna fishery moving further away from the colony [56 ], there is still a high degree of overlap with long-line fisheries in the region [81 ], and recovery is hindered by low juvenile survival [76 ]. Juvenile birds forage mainly in subtropical Indian Ocean waters where the tuna long-line fishery has expanded in recent times [56, 76 ].   

Diomedea exulans overlap with longline fisheries throughout the year and will be impacted by even low bycatch rates due to their small population size, but rates and risk of incidental mortality can be affected by seasonal variation in albatross distribution and fishing effort [81 ]. For instance, D. exulans from Marion Island showed high spatial overlap with the local Patagonian toothfish long-line fishery during early chick rearing, and this was especially true for males, as females foraged more to the north and hence interacted more with tuna long-line fisheries [74 ]. During late chick-rearing and the non-breeding period, Marion Island and Crozet populations overlap spatially within areas of intense tuna long-line fishing effort south of South Africa [74 ] where bycatch rates are high [81 ].    Non breeding birds foraging in warmer waters show the highest spatial overlap with tuna fisheries [74 ]
 
The recent development of new long-line fisheries throughout the length of the South American coastal shelf-slope has also greatly increased interactions with the South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur) populations. During chick rearing, D. exualns potentially interact with Patagonian toothfish fisheries on the Patagonian shelf and around Sough Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur), and with the oceanic long-line tuna fishery in the south Atlantic oceanic waters (30-60° W and south of 30°) [66 ]. Females are more likely to interact with the pelagic tuna fishery [66, 77 ] and juveniles and dispersing adults are likely to encounter longliners outside the western south Atlantic, e.g. off the coast of Brazil and Uruguay where this species has been reported as bycatch [82 ]. Outside the breeding season, birds from the Atlantic sector are also at risk from southern bluefin tuna long-line fishing operationsoff south Africa (shelf, shelf slope and adjacent oceanic areas) and in the Tasman sea, off eastern and southern New Zealand, because of their circumpolar migrations [56, 83, 84 ]
 
Chicks are also vulnerable to accumulation of anthropogenic marine debris and fishery-related debris such as secondary ingestion of discarded hooks [74 ].

Key Gaps in Species Assessment

Diomedea exulans is one of the most comprehensively studied albatross species. Extensive time series data are available for all island groups, and demographic parameters are also well documented. Monitoring should be continued to clarify population trends and consolidate our knowledge of survival and production rates and their relationship with fisheries interactions. However, regular surveys have not been conducted on Prince Edward Island which hosts a large population of D. exulans (c. 23% of global breeding pairs), and this site would benefit from the establishment of a monitoring programme.   Likewise, some of the other sites holding smaller populations have been monitored very sporadically.

 There is an urgent need to improve our understanding of the movements and distribution of immature birds in relation to long-line fisheries, especially in international subtropical waters where a large tuna fishery has recently expanded [76 ]. This will be aided by a 3 year programme dedicated to satellite tracking of immatures and juveniles which commenced in 2007 (H.Weimerskirch pers. comm.). The areas where there is a significant overlap between D. exulans and fisheries/RFMOs but where effective mitigation and observer programmes are not in place also need to be confirmed.

References

[1] Roux, J.-P., Jouventin, P., Mougin, J.-L., Stahl, J.-C., and Weimerskirch, H. 1983. Un nouvelle albatros Diomedea amsterdamensis n. sp. decouvert sur I'Ile Amsterdam (37o, 50'S, 77o35'E). Oiseau Revue fr. Orn. 53: p. 1-11.

[2] Warham, J. 1990. The petrels - their ecology and breeding systems. London: Academic Press.

[3] Robertson, C.J.R. and Warham, J. 1992. Nomenclature of the New Zealand Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 112: p. 74-81.

[4] Medway, D.G. 1993. The identity of the Chocolate Albatross Diomedea spadicea of Gmelin, 1789 and of the Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans of Linnaeus, 1758. Notornis. 40: p. 145-162.

[4] Medway, D.G. 1993. The identity of the Chocolate Albatross Diomedea spadicea of Gmelin, 1789 and of the Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans of Linnaeus, 1758. Notornis. 40: p. 145-162.

[5] Robertson, C.J. and Nunn, G.B. 1998 Towards a new taxonomy for albatrosses, in Albatross biology and conservation, G. Robertson and R. Gales, Editors., Surrey Beatty & Sons: Chipping Norton. p. 13-19.

[6] Gales, R. 1998 Albatross populations: status and threats, in Albatross Biology and Conservation, G. Robertson and R. Gales, Editors., Surrey Beatty & Sons: Chipping Norton. p. 20-45.

[7] Croxall, J.P. and Gales, R. 1998 An assessment of the conservation status of albatrosses, in Albatross Biology and Conservation, G. Robertson and R. Gales, Editors., Surrey Beatty & Sons: Chipping Norton. p. 46-65.

[8] Burg, T.M. and Croxall, J.P. 2004. Global population structure and taxonomy of the wandering albatross species complex. Molecular Ecology. 13: p. 2345-2355.

[9] Shirihai, H. 2002. A complete guide to Antarctic wildlife. Degerby, Finland: Alula Press.

[10] BirdLife International. 2004. Tracking Ocean Wanderers: the global distribution of albatrosses and petrels. Results from the Global Procellariiform Tracking Workshop, 1-5 September, 2003, Gordon's Bay, South Africa. Cambridge UK: Birdlife International.


Compiled by

 
Wieslawa Misiak
ACAP Species Assessments Project

 


Contributors

Rachael Alderman
DPIW, Tasmania, Australia
 
John Croxall
BirdLife International, UK
 
Henri Weimerskirch
CEBE-CNRS, France
 
Mark Tasker
JNCC, UK
 
ACAP Taxonomy Working Group
Contact: Michael Double
 
ACAP Breeding Sites Working Group
Contact: Richard Phillips
 
ACAP Status and Trends Working Group
Contact: Rosemary Gales
 
ACAP Bycatch Working Group
Contact: Barry Baker
 
BirdLife International,
Global Seabird Programme
Contact: Cleo Small
 
Maps – Frances Taylor
Satellite Tracking Data contributorsHenri Weimerskirch, Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, (CNRS UPR 1934), France.
Deon Nel and Peter Ryan, Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Recommended Citation

Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. 2008. Species assessments: Wandering albatross. Downloaded from http://www.acap.aq on (insert date).