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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

At three to four years old, the sooty albatross performs an elegant courtship display at a nest site. The pair bond formed following these displays may last for life, although the pairs will not begin to breed until they are 9 to 16 years. Laying occurs between September and December, with a single egg laid in a nest made from a mound of mud and plant matter. The egg is incubated by both parents for 65 – 75 days. Parental care continues after hatching, and the chick is fed and guarded for the next five months, at which time it leaves the nest and becomes independent (2). The sooty albatross eats cephalopods, fish, crustaceans and carrion, but unlike many other albatross species, it seldom follows fishing vessels to catch food (4) (5).
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Description

Named after the sooty brown colour of its feathers, this albatross is medium-sized with a diamond-shaped tail. The sides of the head are slightly darker brown than the rest of the body (4) and the legs and feet are pale grey (2). A white crescent surrounds the eye, and the bill is black with a yellow-orange groove in the lower jaw (4).
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Distribution

Range Description

Phoebetria fusca breeds on islands in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The total annual breeding population is estimated at 13,200 - 14,500 pairs (Ryan et al. 2003), consisting of c.5,000 pairs on Gough Island (Cuthbert and Sommer 2004a), 3,157 pairs in the Tristan da Cunha group (to UK) (ACAP 2012), c. 1,450 pairs on Prince Edward and c. 1,700 pairs on Marion Island (South Africa) (ACAP 2012), 2,080-2,200 pairs on the Crozet Islands (Delord et al. 2008), and 470 pairs on Amsterdam Island (French Southern Territories) (Delord et al. 2008). The pelagic distribution is mainly between 30°S and 60°S in the southern Indian and Atlantic Oceans, with a southern limit of c. 65°S near Antarctica and a northern limit of c. 20°S. Adults move north in winter from sub-Antarctic to subtropical seas, whereas immature birds tend to remain in subtropical seas year round. The species infrequently disperses eastward to the Tasman Sea and New Zealand waters (ACAP 2009). On Possession Island (Crozet), the population declined by 58% between 1980 and 1995 (Weimerskirch and Jouventin 1998) and continues to decline, although at a slower rate. This equates to an 82% decline between 1980 and 2006 (Delord et al. 2008). On Marion Island, the population declined by 25% from 1990-19988. On Gough Island (c.36% global population), the population appears to have decreased by over 50% from 1972-2000 ( Cuthbert and Sommer 2004a), although recent counts of breeding birds on Gough in 2000, 2003 and 2005 indicate no change in breeding numbers. Limited counts have been made on Tristan and Inaccessible, and indicate a population of c.3,157 (ACAP 2012). Overall, these declines equate to 60% over three generations (90 years), with a trend start date of 1960.

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Range

S Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean north to about 30°S.

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Range

Spending most of the year at sea in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the sooty albatross nests on many of the islands in these oceans, including Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha Islands, Prince Edward and Marion Islands, St. Paul Island, Amsterdam Island and the Crozet and Kerguelen archipelagos (4) (5).
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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Description

Length: 81-87 cm; wingspan: 204 cm. Colour: Adult: uniformly dark sooty brown with a slightly darker head; bill black with a narrow yellow sulcus on lower mandible, not easily visible; legs and feet pale grey to pinkish; immature similar to adult but no yellow sulcus. Habitat: Open ocean. <388><391><393>
  • Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban & K. Newman (1982). The Birds of Africa, Volume I. Academic Press, London.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour It breeds in loose colonies of up to 50-60 nests (Marchant and Higgins 1990). The breeding season extends through summer, eggs are laid in October and November, hatch in early to mid-December and chicks fledge in May (ACAP 2009). Successful pairs seldom breed in the following summer (Ryan 2007). A single egg is laid, with no replacement laying. Adults make a combination of long commuting flights early in the incubation period, looping searching flights later in incubation and linear searching during chick brooding (ACAP 2009). Habitat Breeding It breeds on cliffs or steep slopes where it can land and take off right next to the nest (Marchant and Higgins 1990). Diet Squid, fish, crustaceans and carrion all feature prominently in the diet, although proportions of each vary between years and locations (ACAP 2009).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Marine
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Depth range based on 94 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 93 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): -0.938 - 16.532
  Nitrate (umol/L): 2.487 - 26.905
  Salinity (PPS): 33.739 - 35.307
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.761 - 7.839
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.336 - 1.904
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.528 - 74.475

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): -0.938 - 16.532

Nitrate (umol/L): 2.487 - 26.905

Salinity (PPS): 33.739 - 35.307

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.761 - 7.839

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.336 - 1.904

Silicate (umol/l): 1.528 - 74.475
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Inhabits sub-Antarctic and subtropical marine waters. Nests amongst vegetation on inland and seaward cliffs of oceanic islands (2) (5).
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Breeding Category

Vagrant
  • Woehler E.J. (compiler) 2006. Species list prepared for SCAR/IUCN/BirdLife International Workshop on Antarctic Regional Seabird Populations, March 2005, Cambridge, UK.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
A4bd

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Taylor, J. & Butchart, S.

Contributor/s
Cooper, J., Crawford, R., Croxall, J., Cuthbert, R., Hilton, G., Misiak, W., Ryan, P.G. & Weimerskirsch, H.

Justification
This species qualifies as Endangered owing to a very rapid decline over three generations (90 years), probably due to interactions with fisheries. Since 1980, three sites (Crozet, Marion and Gough) have witnessed severe declines, although the population at Prince Edward may have increased between 2002-2009. However, high variability in population counts between years necessitates caution and further data are required before a change in status should be considered.

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Status

The sooty albatross is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (3), as well as Appendix II of the Bonn Convention (2). It is also listed as a Vulnerable Species on Schedule 2 of the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (2).
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Population

Population
The total annual breeding population is estimated at c.14,000 pairs, consisting of c.5,000 pairs on Gough Island (Cuthbert and Sommer 2004a), 3,157 pairs in the Tristan da Cunha group (ACAP 2012), c.1,450 pairs on Prince Edward and 1,701 pairs on Marion Islands (Ryan et al. 2009, ACAP 2012), 2,174 pairs on the Crozet Islands (Delord 2008), fewer than five pairs on Kerguelen Island, and 300-400 pairs on Amsterdam Island (Carboneras 1992b).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Both adults and juveniles have been caught as bycatch by Japanese longline vessels fishing inside and beyond the Australian Fishing Zone (Gales et al. 1998) and at least some are killed on tuna longlines off southern Africa (Ryan et al. 2003). However, only one bird (of 1,500 examined) is known to have been killed by vessels with observers in the Prince Edward fishery (P. G. Ryan in litt. 1999). One banded bird has been caught by a Chinese Taipei longline vessel fishing in the Indian Ocean (Delord et al. 2008). The population on Possession Island, Crozet Islands has nevertheless been found to be significantly and negatively affected by fisheries bycatch, particularly adult survival rates (in the absence of fishing effort, predicted adult survival was 0.902 as opposed to 0.884) (Rolland et al. 2010). Adult survival was found to be low and more variable than in similar species, which is very likely the cause of their decline (Rolland et al. 2010). Introduced rats and cats on the Kerguelen Islands are not known to affect the species, but cats and rats on Amsterdam Island are known to impact the species sufficiently to cause population-level changes (ACAP 2009). The harvest of chicks and adults in the Tristan group is banned and illegal poaching is now probably very rare (P. G. Ryan in litt. 1999). The species could be affected by avian cholera and erysipelas bacteria on Amsterdam Island (H. Weimerskirch 2004).

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Introduced rats are known to consume albatross eggs and the sooty albatross is thought to be vulnerable to avian cholera and the erysipelas bacteria (2) (6). Pollution from plastics, oils and chemicals is also a threat (2).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II and ACAP Annex 1. Population monitoring and foraging studies are being undertaken at Possession, Amsterdam and Marion. The species is protected in Tristan da Cunha (J. Cooper in litt. 1999, P. G. Ryan in litt. 1999). Gough is a World Heritage Site and the Prince Edward Islands are a Special Nature Reserve. Inaccessible and Gough Islands are nature reserves. A population estimate was made at Gough during 2000-2001, and a repeatable monitoring protocol was devised (Cuthbert and Sommer 2004b). Monitoring has been repeated in 2003 and 2006 at Gough. Gough and Tristan birds have also been remotely-tracked to determine at-sea distribution. A project on Tristan da Cunha (2004-2006) is undertaking population counts. In 2007, Crozet, Amsterdam and Kerguelen Islands were declared Nature Reserves.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Repeat standardised population surveys at all key sites, most notably Gough and Tristan da Cunha. Determine foraging distribution of the species and its overlap with longline fisheries. Promote adoption of best-practice mitigation measures in all fisheries within the species's range, particularly via intergovernmental mechanisms such as ACAP, CCAMLR, FAO, and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations such as the tuna commissions in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans (ICCAT, IOTC).

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Conservation

The sooty albatross is protected in some of its range; it exists in one World Heritage Site, one Special Nature Reserve, and several other nature reserves. There are continuing population monitoring and foraging studies, and it has been proposed that key sites are re-assessed regularly (4).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Risks

IUCN Red List Category

Endangered
  • Woehler E.J. (compiler) 2006. Species list prepared for SCAR/IUCN/BirdLife International Workshop on Antarctic Regional Seabird Populations, March 2005, Cambridge, UK.
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Wikipedia

Sooty Albatross

Immature
Stuffed specimen at the Natural History Museum, Vienna

The Sooty Albatross, Dark-mantled Sooty Albatross or Dark-mantled Albatross,[3] Phoebetria fusca, is a species of bird in the albatross family. They breed on sub-Antarctic islands and range at sea across the Southern Ocean from South America to Australia.[4]

Taxonomy[edit]

Sooty Albatrosses are a type of Albatross that belong to Diomedeidae family and come from the Procellariiformes order, along with shearwaters, fulmars, storm petrels, and diving petrels. They share certain identifying features. First, they have nasal passages that attach to the upper bill called naricorns. Although the nostrils on the Albatross are on the sides of the bill. The bills of Procellariiformes are also unique in that they are split into between 7 and 9 horny plates. Finally, they produce a stomach oil made up of wax esters and triglycerides that is stored in the proventriculus. This is used against predators as well as an energy rich food source for chicks and for the adults during their long flights.[5] They also have a salt gland that is situated above the nasal passage and helps desalinate their bodies, due to the high amount of ocean water that they imbibe. It excretes a high saline solution from their nose.[6]

Description[edit]

The Sooty Albatross is a medium sized albatross and measures about 85 cm (33 in),[7] with a 2 m (6.6 ft) wingspan.[8] Adult body mass ranges from 2.1 to 3.4 kg (4.6 to 7.5 lb).[9] It is sooty-brown[8] with darker shading on the sides of its head. It has a white crescent above and behind its eye. Its bill is black with an orange or yellow sulcus. The tail of this albatross is wide diamond shaped. Juveniles are similar to adults, although they can have paler feathers on the nape and upper back, possibly creating confusion with Light-mantled Albatross.[7]

Behavior[edit]

Feeding[edit]

Their diet consists of squid,[8] crustaceans, cephalopods, fish, and carrion.[7]

Reproduction[edit]

The Sooty Albatross is a colonial bird; however not to the degree of other Albatrosses, as their colonies usually consist of 50 to 60 pair. They will build their nests on cliffs and steep slopes. Whereas they can mate annually they only do so biennially.[7]

Range and habitat[edit]

This albatross nests on islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean (Gough Island and the Tristan da Cunha group) and Indian Ocean (Prince Edward Island, Marion Island, the Crozet Islands, Amsterdam Island, and Kerguelen Islands).[7] They forage in both oceans north to about 30°S.[10]

Conservation[edit]

The IUCN ranks the Sooty Albatross as endangered[1] with an occurrence range of 40,800,000 km2 (15,800,000 sq mi) and a breeding range of 1,900 km2 (730 sq mi). A 1998 estimate place the population at 42,000 adult birds.

Populations have been shrinking 75% over the last 90 years; although the rate of reduction has recently slowed. The 21st century has seen stable populations at Gough Island.[7]

This species is not overly affected by longline fisheries, but instead by domestic cats eating eggs and chicks on Amsterdam Island and the Kerguelen Islands. Avian cholera, pasteurellosis, and erysipelas are major threats. Illegal poaching has nearly ceased.[7]

Studies and surveys are conducted to assist in slowing its demise. It is a protected species on the Tristan da Cunha group, Gough Island is a World Heritage Site, and Prince Edward Island, Gough Island, and Inaccessible Island in the Tristan da Cunha group are protected nature preserves. Also, in 2007, the Crozet Islands, Amsterdam Island, and the Kerguelen Islands were declared nature preserves.[7]

Breeding Population and Trends[7]
Breeding LocationBreeding PairTrend
Gough Island5,000– 50% over 28 years
Tristan da Cunha4,125 to 5,250Unknown
Crozet Islands2,620−58% between 1980 and 1995 (Possession Island only)
Prince Edward Island and Marion Island1,720−25% between 1990 and 1998 (Marion Island only)
Kerguelen Islands<5Unknown
Amsterdam Island300 to 400Unknown
Total12,500 to 19,000-75% over 90 years


Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "''Phoebetria fusca''". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Brands, S. (2008)
  3. ^ BirdLife International (2008b)
  4. ^ Brooke, M. (2004)
  5. ^ Double, M. C. (2003)
  6. ^ Ehrlich, Paul R. (1988)
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i BirdLife International (2008a)
  8. ^ a b c Trewby, M. (2002)
  9. ^ CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (1992), ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5.
  10. ^ Clements, J. (2007)

References[edit]

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