The Grey-headed Albatross (Thalassarche chrysostoma) is an endangered  albatross of the Southern Ocean, averaging 81 cm (32 in) in length and 2.2 m (7.2 ft) in wingspan, which breeds further south than any other mollymawk. Though its common name derives from the species’ ashy-grey head, throat and upper neck, the scientific name is a reference to the bright golden streaks on its bill.

Photographs: adult - JJ Harrison; chick - Ben Tullis

(via: Wikipedia)


What are the tubes on seabirds for?

function of the tubes on Procellariiformes

as you may or may not have noticed several species of seabirds like albatrosses, petrels, fulmars and shearwaters all have tubes on their bills called narnicorns. These tubes earned the order their name tubenoses but what function do they serve? It turns out that these tubes help the birds remove salt from their systems  by forming a saline solution which is either dripped or ejected through the nostril. Procellariiformes also have a tubular nasal passage which helps the birds smell prey in the open ocean.


Sexegenarian Albatross Breeds Again!

The albatross Wisdom, at almost 63 the world’s oldest, banded wild bird, laid another egg in late November, a year and a day after her last one. She’s at Midway Atoll Refuge, nesting site for 71 percent of the world’s population of Laysan albatross.

Watch live video:
More photos by Pete Leary/USFWS:

(via: USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System)


A Buller’s albatross (Thalassarche bulleri) in flight, with a short-tailed shearwater behind it, as photographed east of the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia. This small mollymawk species, named for the ornithologist Walter Buller, breeds on islands around New Zealand. It is classified as near threatened, though the population is increasing.

Photograph: JJ Harrison                                                            via: Wikipedia

Two adult Black-browed Albatrosses (Thalassarche melanophrys) tend to a chick, Admiralty Sound, Patagonia.  The sound contains the world’s smallest known colony of black-browed albatross, one of the world’s largest flying birds with a wingspan of nearly 8 feet (2.5 meters).


Albatross Internet Darling Takes First Flight

The world watches as a Laysan albatross chick grows up and takes to the sky.

by Katie Langin

On Tuesday a young Laysan albatross named Kaloakulua took to the skies on her maiden flight, plunging off a cliff 250 feet high (76 meters) and setting course for the open ocean. She won’t touch down on land again for another three years.

And so ends the first chapter of the first ever live-streaming wildlife camera aimed at an albatross nest.

The camera was installed on the north shore of the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i on January 27—the day Kaloakulua emerged from her egg—by biologists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Since then, volunteers from the Kaua’i Albatross Network have manned the controls, panning and zooming the high-definition camera to capture the comings and goings of albatross at the nest site…

(read more: National Geographic)

photos by Bob Osterlund

Salvin’s albatross (Thalassarche salvini) is a large seabird that can be found across the Southern Ocean. Long considered to be a subspecies of the shy albatross, from the mid-1990s experts began classifying it as a separate species. The species’ population is thought to be declining, and the IUCN has classified it as vulnerable.

Photo: JJ Harrison                                                                via: Wikipedia

First Global Review of Bycatch from Gillnet Fishing Puts Seabird Death Toll in Hundreds of Thousands

48 Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable Seabird Species Imperiled by Fishing Practice

ABC media release

A new study published in the journal Biological Conservation provides the first global review of seabird mortality associated with the gillnet fishing industry and finds that, at a minimum, 400,000 seabirds are killed accidentally in gillnets each year, with numerous species suffering potentially significant impacts.

 The study documents 81 species that have been caught and killed in gillnets and another 67 species that are potential victims. The list of susceptible species includes five Critically Endangered, 14 Endangered, 29 Vulnerable, and 15 Near Threatened species, as classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The highest bycatch has been reported in the Pacific Northwest (about 194,000 individuals), Iceland (around 100,000), and the Baltic Sea (around 76,000). However, the report said that it is almost certain that that the actual number of birds killed in gillnets worldwide is much higher because of numerous data gaps…

(read more: American Bird Conservancy)

(photo: Alan Wilson)


A perilous journey: Seabird runs gauntlet of hazards on 40,000-mile annual trip

by Sheryl Katz

Named for their low, rocking glide with wings seeming to slice the sea, Sooty Shearwaters rack up nearly 40,000 miles a year, flying from nesting colonies near New Zealand and Chile to fishing grounds as far north as Kamchatka, looping a giant figure 8 over the Pacific. Every spring and fall, they make their grueling, month-long journey, flying as much as 550 miles a day, much of it without stopping to eat.

Right around now, flocks of sooties are finishing up their summer vacations feasting in the rich, upwelling currents of the Northern Pacific and are heading south to breed. En route, they’ll run a gauntlet of manmade obstacles in the ocean: fisheries that deplete their prey and snare them with hooks and long lines, drifting continents of trash and noxious industrial spume. Crossing major shipping lanes, they risk getting slimed by oily bilge and clobbered by vessels. Their meals of anchovies and sardines are tinged with contaminants. To top it off, climate change brings warming waters and scrambled wind patterns that can leave them starving.

When they finally reach their breeding grounds in the southern hemisphere, rats and other foreign predators invade their burrows and kill their defenseless chicks. The parents unwittingly feed their chicks plastic. And on top of all that, sooties are a traditional food in New Zealand, where hunters kill hundreds of thousands every year…

(read more: Environmental Health News)

photos: Glen Temple; Scott Shaffer/PNAS; and Quensland NPRSR


Behind the Scenes: First-ever Black-capped Petrel Satellite Tracking

By Rob Ronconi

Locally known as diablotín, which translates loosely to “little devil,” the Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata) is one of the world’s most imperiled and least known seabirds. This species was thought to be extinct for most of the 20th century, then was rediscovered in 1963 nesting high up in the mountains of southeastern Haiti.

Since then, various expeditions have found diablotíns nesting among the cliffs, boulders, and pine forests of four sites on the island of Hispaniola.

In early April 2014, in a joint project led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Clemson University, Grupo Jaragua in the Dominican Republic, and American Bird Conservancy, I had the privilege and pleasure to join an expedition to Sierra de Bahoruco National Park in the Dominican Republic…

(read more: American Bird Conservancy)

Photographss by Tazio Taveres and Rob Ronconi

12,000 Miles to Go: Migrating with Shearwaters

by Seabird McKeon

Oceanic birds are a rare treat to see because these birds are not casual visitors to our coastline—to see them you normally have to get on a boat. So late last spring I was amazed to find hundreds of shearwaters stranded on the beach along the Atlantic coast of Florida.

Shearwaters are oceanic birds related to albatrosses that spend most of their lives at sea, normally coming to land only to breed. In talking with locals, I learned that the strandings happen when strong winds blow out of the East. Weak from their long migrations, these birds had the bad luck to encounter strong winds as they were traveling in the Gulf Stream and were pushed to shore through stormy surf.

The majority of the stranded birds were Great Shearwaters, which follow the Gulf Stream along the eastern U.S. coast to migrate between their breeding and feeding grounds. Their voyage starts in the Tristan da Cunha islands, almost exactly in-between the southernmost reaches of Argentina and South Africa, where they lay eggs in shallow burrows during the Southern Hemisphere summer.

Then, in time for the Northern Hemisphere summer, the birds travel more than 6,000 miles to the cold, nutrient-rich water of the North Atlantic. Lucky shearwaters will make this tremendous round-trip voyage for over 60 years…

(read more: Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal)

photo: Artie Copleman, Flickr

A Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) in flight off the coast the Tasman Peninsula. The wandering albatross is the largest of its genus, with an average wingspan ranging from 2.51 to 3.5 m (8 ft 3 in to 11 ft 6 in). It feeds mostly on cephalopods, crustaceans, and small fish.

Photo: JJ Harrison                                                                             via: Wikipedia

The Cape Petrel (Daption capense) is a seabird common to the Southern Ocean. The species are aggressive eaters which feeds mostly on crustaceans, although they are also known to eat fish, squid, and edible waste. When feeding they may spit their stomach oil at competitors.

Photograph: JJ Harrison                                     via: Wikipedia


Conservationists work to give South Georgia back to the birds

by Karl Mathiesen, The Guardian

A team on South Georgia has successfully completed the world’s largest rodent eradication in an effort to rid the British territory of millions of rats and mice.

Against the backdrop of an approaching Antarctic winter between February and May, three helicopters encountered perilous flying conditions while peppering the southern Atlantic island with 183 tonnes of the poison Brodifacoum. The team of 25 baited an area of 224 sq miles (580 sq km). The area targeted dwarfed the previous largest rodent eradication, on New Zealand’s Campbell Island, by five times.

The project director, Prof Tony Martin, said the team, managed by the Dundee-based South Georgia Heritage Trust, aimed to return the 104 mile (167 km) long island to the millions of seabirds wiped out by rats and mice introduced by 19th- and 20th-century whalers and sealers.

Many of the island’s animals remain unaffected by the rat population. Huge populations of seals and penguins attract thousands of cruise ship passengers every year.However Martin said others, such as the endemic South Georgia pippit and South Georgia pintail, were clinging to existence “by their claws”. The storm petrel, Antarctic prion and cape petrel had been driven away from the vital breeding grounds. Every breeding season a single rat would eat hundreds of seabird chicks…

(read more: MongaBay)

images: T - giant petrel feeds off the carcass of a seal, Photo by Brocken Inaglory; M - Cumberland Bay on South Georgia, Photo by NASA; B - South Georgia pintail, decimated by rats, Photo by Mehmet Karatay