Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Males arrive at the breeding site before females, with most pairs nesting in February and March (7) (8). A single egg is laid (7), as with all albatrosses, and both parents incubate the egg in stints that last a week (8). The chick hatches after 80 days, is brooded for a month and fledges after approximately 235 days (7) (8). The chick is fed initially every three days by its parents and, at the peak of weight gain, will weigh more than its parents (8). Individuals reach sexual maturity at around nine years, although they often return to the island a few years before then (7) (8). Average life expectancy is 30 to 40 years (6). Due to its rarity the exact diet of this albatross is unknown but is thought to probably consist of fish, squid and crustaceans (2) (6).
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Description

The Amsterdam albatross is an extremely large albatross that breeds only on Amsterdam Island in the southern Indian Ocean (4). When first described in the early 1980s it was believed by some to be a subspecies of the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) (5). This 'great albatross' (Diomedea) breeds in a brown plumage, rather than the more usual white (4). Adults have almost entirely chocolate-brown upper parts, a white face and throat, a broad brown breast-band, a white lower breast and belly, and brown undertail-coverts. The underwing is white, with a dark tip (6).
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Distribution

Range Description

Diomedea amsterdamensis breeds on the Plateau des Tourbières on Amsterdam Island (French Southern Territories) in the southern Indian Ocean. It has a total population of c.170 birds including 80 mature individuals, with c.26 pairs breeding annually, showing an increase since 1984, when the first census was carried out (Weimerskirch et al. 1997, Inchausti and Weimerskirch 2001, H. Weimerskirch in litt. 2005, 2010, Rains et al. 2011). The population was probably formerly larger when its range was more extensive over the slopes of the island (Weimerskirch et al. 1997). Satellite tracking has shown that adult birds range from the coast of eastern South Africa to the south of western Australia in non-breeding years (Hirschfeld 2008), and possible sightings have been reported from Australia (Environment Australia 1999) and New Zealand (Carboneras 1992b). In July 2013 a bird photographed off the Western Cape represents the first confirmed sight record for South Africa (Cooper 2013).

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Historic Range:
Indian Ocean - Amsterdam Island

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Range

Breeds Amsterdam I. (French subantarctic islands).

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Range

Breeding is restricted to the Plateau des Tourbieres on Amsterdam Island in the southern Indian Ocean (7). During the breeding season birds forage both around Amsterdam Island and up to 2,200 kilometres away in subtropical waters, but non-breeding dispersal is unknown (6).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour Breeding is biennial (when successful) and is restricted to the central plateau of the island at 500-600 m, where only one breeding group is known. Pair-bonds are lifelong, and breeding begins in February (Hirschfeld 2008). Most eggs are laid from late February to March, and chicks fledge in January-February the following year (ACAP 2009). Immature birds begin to return to breeding colonies between four and seven years after fledging but do not begin to breed until they are nine years of age (ACAP 2009). Diet Its exact diet is unknown, but probably consists of fish, squid and crustaceans (Jouventin et al. 1989, Jouventin 1994b). Foraging range During the breeding season, birds forage both around Amsterdam Island and up to 2,200 km away in subtropical waters (H. Weimerskirch unpublished data).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Marine
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This marine, highly pelagic albatross spends the majority of its life out at sea, coming to land only to breed (2). Nesting occurs on a highland plateau at 470 to 640 meters in an area of peat bog that has an ample covering of moss (2) (7).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
B2ab(v); C2a(ii)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S.

Contributor/s
Cooper, J., Croxall, J., Weimerskirsch, H., Barbraud, C., Misiak, W. & Micol, T.

Justification
This species qualifies as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small population, confined to a tiny area on one island. Although numbers have recently been increasing, a continuing decline is projected owing to the impact of a disease which is probably already causing chick mortality.


History
  • 2012
    Critically Endangered
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 01/12/1995
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10) 
Where Listed: Entire


Population detail:

Population location: Entire
Listing status: E

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Diomedea exulans amsterdamensis, see its USFWS Species Profile

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In 2012, Diomedea exulans amsterdamensis was included among the world's 100 most threatened species in a report by the IUCN Species Survival Commission and the Zoological Society of London.

(Baillie & Butcher 2012; Harvey 2012)

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Status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1), and listed on Appendix I of CMS (3).
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Population

Population
The population was estimated at c.170 birds in total, including 80 mature individuals, with c.26 pairs breeding annually by Rains et al. (2011). Between 2001 and 2007 there were c.24-31 pairs breeding annually (Rivalan et al. 2010), so the population is now likely to be around 100 mature individuals for this biennially breeding species. The number of mature individuals was estimated to be fewer than 50 until 1998 (C. Barbraud in litt. 2013).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Degradation of breeding sites by introduced cattle has decreased the species's range and population across the island (Inchausti and Weimerskirch 2001). Human disturbance is presumably also to blame (Jouventin 1994b). Introduced predators are a major threat, particularly feral cats (Inchausti and Weimerskirch 2001). Interactions with longline fisheries around the island in the 1970s and early 1980s could also have contributed to a decline in the population (Inchausti and Weimerskirch 2001). Today the population is threatened primarily by the potential spread of diseases (avian cholera and Erysipelothrix rhusiopathidae) that affect the Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche carteri population 3 km from the colony (Weimerskirch 2004). Infection risks are very high and increased chick mortality over recent years suggests the population is already affected (Weimerskirch submitted). The foraging range of the species overlaps with longline fishing operations targeting tropical tuna species, so bycatch may also still be a threat (ACAP 2009), and a recent analysis has suggested that bycatch levels exceeding six individuals per year would be enough to cause a potentially irreversible population decline (Rivalan et al. 2010). Having a distribution on relatively low-lying islands, this species is potentially susceptible to climate change through sea-level rise and shifts in suitable climatic conditions (BirdLife International unpublished data).

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This rare albatross has been imperilled by a number of human and non-human related activities, and now clings to an extremely precarious existence of just 70 to 90 individuals and 10 to 20 annually breeding pairs (2) (7). A large herd of 1,200 feral cattle have destroyed the vegetation cover at lower altitudes on Amsterdam Island, reducing this species' available breeding ground. Introduced predators also pose a major threat, particularly feral cats, and Amsterdam Island has suffered from fires started by humans, which destroy vegetation and possibly birds (2) (9). The effects of longline fisheries around the island in the 1970s and early 1980s may also be to blame for the serious decline in numbers (4) (10). Although population numbers have recently been increasing, a continued decline is projected owing to the potential spread of certain diseases (Avian cholera and Erysipelothrix rhusiopathidae) that affect the Indian yellow-nosed albatross (Thalassarche carteri) population on the same island (1) (4). Indeed, increased chick mortality over recent years suggests that the Amsterdam albatross population has already been affected (4).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation and Research Actions Underway
ACAP Annex 1. All birds are banded and the population is censused and monitored every year (Micol and Jouventin 1995), and some birds have been fitted with satellite transmitters. In 1987 the number of cattle was reduced and a fence erected to seal off part of the island, then in 1992 a second fence was erected with the aim of providing complete protection for the high plateau from possible incursions by cattle (Micol and Jouventin 1995). Cattle eradication began in 2009 and was completed in 2011. Following this, fences were removed and Phylica trees were replanted (T. Micol in litt. 2012). A resolution in June 2008 from the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission requiring long-line vessels to use preventative measures to avoid by-catch of seabirds may be important for this species (Hirschfeld 2008). Blood sampling has been carried out to determine the presence of disease (T. Micol in litt. 2012). Strict measures are now in place to prevent biologists facilitating the spread of disease from the nearby Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross colony (T. Micol in litt. 2012). A national plan of action for the species covering the period 2011-2015 was published in 2011 (Delord et al. 2011).

Conservation and Researc Actions Proposed
Prevent the spread of disease. Continue detailed monitoring of the population. Promote adoption of best-practice mitigation measures in all fisheries within the species's range, particularly via intergovernmental mechanisms such as ACAP, FAO and appropriate Regional Fisheries Management Organisations. Submit an eradication plan for rats, cats and mice to the TAAF (Terres australes et antarctiques françaises) administration (T. Micol in litt. 2012).

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Conservation

The Amsterdam albatross is listed on Appendix I on the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), which strives towards protecting migratory animals, conserving or restoring their habitat and controlling factors that might endanger them (3). It is also on Annex 1 of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) (11). All Amsterdam albatrosses are banded and the population is monitored every year. In 1987 the number of cattle was reduced and a fence erected to partition off part of the island, and in 1992 a second fence was built to provide complete protection from cattle in the high plateau (4) (9). Access to the colony by humans is also now under strict control (2). Further proposals include the management of vegetation to increase suitable nesting ground, investigation into the impact of cats and means of removing these predators, raising awareness of bycatch problems amongst longline fishers and research into methods of preventing the spread of disease (4) (10). All these issues need to be urgently addressed if we are to ensure the future of this bird, which is one of the rarest and most endangered of all albatrosses and currently in grave danger of extinction.
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Wikipedia

Amsterdam albatross

The Amsterdam albatross or Amsterdam Island albatross,[2] Diomedea amsterdamensis, is a huge albatross which breeds only on Amsterdam Island in the southern Indian Ocean. It was only described in 1983, and was thought by some researchers to be a sub-species of the wandering albatross, exulans. BirdLife International recognizes it as a species, Clements does not, and the SACC has a proposal on the table to split the species.[1][3][4] More recently, mitchondrial DNA comparisons between the Amsterdam albatross, the wandering albatross Diomedea exulans, the Antipodean albatross D. antipodensis and the Tristan albatross D. dabbenena, provide clear genetic evidence that the Amsterdam albatross is a separate species.[5]

Taxonomy[edit]

Albatrosses 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.[6] 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 seven and nine 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 and serves as well as an energy-rich food source for chicks and for adults during their long flights.[7]

Etymology[edit]

The scientific name Diomedea amsterdamensis is composed of Diomedea, from the Greek hero Diomedes whose companions were turned to birds,[8] and amsterdamensis, a Latin form of the name of the island where they are found.

Range and habitat[edit]

The Amsterdam albatross breeds only on Amsterdam Island, French Southern Territories, at an altitude of between 500–600 m (1,600–2,000 ft) above sea level on the Plateau des Tourbières. There is uncertainty regarding its whereabouts when it is not breeding, though there have been possible sightings in Australia and New Zealand.[9]

Description[edit]

The Amsterdam albatross is a great albatross that breeds in brown, rather than in the more usual white, plumage. This bird weighs 4.8–8 kg (11–18 lb) and is 107–122 cm (42–48 in) long with a wingspan of 280–340 cm (110–130 in).[10][11] The adult bird has chocolate brown upper parts and is white on its face mask, throat, lower breast, and belly. It has a broad brown breast band along with brown undertail coverts. Its pink bill has a dark tip and dark cutting edges, and finally, its underwings are white except for the dark tip and the dark leading edge.[9]

Behaviour[edit]

Because of its rarity, the feeding ecology and at-sea distribution of the Amsterdam albatross is not well understood, although it is believed that they eat squid, crustaceans, and fish.[9] Off-duty birds during the incubation stage of the breeding cycle cover large areas of the Indian Ocean, travelling up to 2,400 km (1,500 mi).

Reproduction[edit]

Amsterdam albatrosses breed biennially in open marshy ground. Both parents incubate the egg in alternate stints that last for about a week, with the chick hatching after 80 days. The chick is brooded for a month, and overall takes 230 days to fledge. At first it is fed by its parents every three days, with the feeding frequency reduced as it approaches fledging. At the peak of weight gain the chick weighs more than its parents, but then loses weight as the extra reserves are used to grow feathers. Having fledged, the young bird stays at sea for around five years before returning to the colony, and begins breeding a few years later. The breeding "language" of the Amsterdam albatross is similar to that of the wandering albatross.

Adult in flight, showing dark plumage typical of the species.

Conservation[edit]

The Amsterdam albatross is listed as critically endangered, by the IUCN,[1] with an occurrence range of 4,400,000 km2 (1,700,000 sq mi) and a breeding range of only 7 km2 (2.7 sq mi).[9] The population upon discovery was just five breeding pairs; with conservation this has increased to eighteen to twenty-five breeding pairs. Monitored continuously since 1983,[12] the world population is estimated at 80 mature individuals and a total of some 130 birds.[9] The island on which the albatross breeds has undergone a significant decline in habitat condition due to the introduction of ship rats, feral cats and cattle,[12] while the birds are threatened at sea by the practice of longline fishing. The draining of a peat bog on the plateau has degraded the breeding environment,[12] and because there is only one breeding location, they are also especially vulnerable to diseases such as Pasteurella multocida (avian cholera)[12] and Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae.

To help in conservation efforts banding of the birds and frequent censuses are undertaken. Feral cattle were eliminated from Amsterdam Island in 2010.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c BirdLife International (2013). "Diomedea amsterdamensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c BirdLife International (2008b)
  3. ^ Clements, J. (2007)
  4. ^ Remsen Jr., J. V. (2009)
  5. ^ http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-048X.2010.05295.x/abstract
  6. ^ Sibley D. A. (2001)
  7. ^ Double, M. C. (2003)
  8. ^ Gotch, A. F. (1995)
  9. ^ a b c d e BirdLife International (2008a)
  10. ^ http://www.arkive.org/species/GES/birds/Diomedea_amsterdamensis/
  11. ^ http://dyomedea.com/english/albatros-amsterdam/
  12. ^ a b c d Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), Species assessment: Amsterdam Albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis, 2010.

References[edit]

  • BirdLife International (2008a). "Amsterdam Albatross - BirdLife Species Factsheet". Data Zone. Retrieved 18 Feb 2009. 
  • BirdLife International (2008b). "The BirdLife checklist of the birds of the world, with conservation status and taxonomic sources." (xls). Retrieved 18 Feb 2009. [dead link]
  • Clements, James (2007). The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World (6 ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-4501-9. 
  • Double, M. C. (2003). "Procellariiformes". In Hutchins, Michael; Jackson, Jerome A.; Bock, Walter J. et al. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. 8 Birds I Tinamous and Ratites to Hoatzins. Joseph E. Trumpey, Chief Scientific Illustrator (2 ed.). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group. pp. 107–110. ISBN 0-7876-5784-0. 
  • Gotch, A. F. (1995) [1979]. "Albatrosses, Fulmars, Shearwaters, and Petrels". Latin Names Explained A Guide to the Scientific Classifications of Reptiles, Birds & Mammals. New York, NY: Facts on File. p. 190. ISBN 0-8160-3377-3. 
  • Rains, D.; Weimerskirch, H.; Burg, T. M. (January 2011). "Piecing together the global population puzzle of wandering albatrosses: genetic analysis of the Amsterdam albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis". Journal of Avian Biology 42 (1): 69–79. doi:10.1111/j.1600-048X.2010.05295.x. 
  • Remsen Jr., J. V.; et al. (Jan 2009). "Proposal (388) to South American Classification Committee: Split Diomedea exulans into four species". South American Classification Committee. American Ornithologists' Union. Archived from the original on 21 February 2009. Retrieved 18 Feb 2009. 
  • Sibley, David Allen; Elphick, Chris; Dunning Jr., John B.; Armistead, George L.; Badyaev, Alex; Barker, F. Keith; Behrstock, Robert A.; Brinkley, Edward S.; Cech, Rick; Clark Jr., George A.; Collins, Charles T.; Davis Jr., William E.; Delehanty, David J.; Garrett, Kimball L.; Geupel, Geoffrey R.; Groschupf, Kathleen; Groth, Jeff; Grzybowski, Joseph A.; Hendricks, Paul; Humann, Alec; Jaramillo, Alvaro; Jones, Ian L.; Knight, Thomas; Kricher, John; Kruper, David J.; Laymon, Stephen A.; McGowan, Kevin J.; Nur, Nadav; Petersen, Wayne R.; Reed, J. Michael; Rising, James D.; Rosenberg, Gary H.; Rubega, Margaret; Sargent, Robert; Sargent, Martha; Seng, William J.; Sheldon, Frederick H.; Snyder, Helen; Thompson, Christopher W.; Trost, Charles H.; Warnock, Nils; Warnock, Sarah; Weller, Milton W.; Wells, Allison Childs; Wells, Jeffrey V.; Williamson, Sheri L.; Winkler, David W.; Witmer, Mark (2001). Elphick, Chris; Dunning Jr., John B.; Sibley, David Allen, eds. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior. Illustrated by David Allen Sibley (First ed.). New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-45123-4. 
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