Sole Antipodean albatross chick from Chathams being tracked

This chick is from a single breeding pair who made their nest this year on Pitt Island/Rangihaute/Rangiauria. One of the pair is itself a Pitt Island-reared chick, which returned to breed.

DOC Principal Marine Science Advisor Igor Debski says that although other albatross species breed in the Chatham islands, most Antipodean albatross nest at the Antipodes Islands so this is an exciting event.

“When we banded and tagged the chick on the 23 December it had already left the nest, a sign it was about to fledge. The tracking information shows it fledged on 27 December, so we made it just in time.”

So far, the chick has travelled more than 12,750 km. It will spend a life mainly at sea, travelling more than 100,000km a year.

The satellite transmitter was supplied by DOC and fitted with technical assistance from Wildlife Management International Ltd, with the support of the Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Iwi Trust and the Hokotehi Moriori Trust

Thanks to the Albatrosstracker project, which DOC have been working on with Live Ocean and Fisheries New Zealand, tracking transmitters have been attached to several albatross to build a better understanding of the species. Most recently, the parents of the Royal Cam chick were fitted with transmitters at Pukekura/Taiaroa Head.

The movements of all tracked birds can be viewed on a tracking app. A separate tracking page has been created for the Pitt island albatross chick. The Royal Cam birds also have their own tracking page.

The Antipodean albatross has the highest threat status of Nationally Critical, with approximately 3,000 breeding pairs. It only breeds in the New Zealand geographic region and, if successful, raises just a single chick every two years. They first pair up and breed at around 10-12 years of age.

Antipodean albatross are vulnerable to being caught as bycatch from long line fishing activities, both in New Zealand and internationally. The need for international cooperation to address this issue was recently recognised by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species, agreed by 130 countries in February 2020.

DOC’s Igor Debski says the knowledge gained from the tracking data will support albatross conservation.

“Albatross spend most of their time on the ocean and while we are taking action to protect them on land, once they fledge and disperse to international waters we’re limited with what we can do. Our tracking work with Live Ocean and Fisheries New will give us more information about albatross movements, including where they interact with fishing fleets.

“It will be really interesting to determine this chick’s post-fledging behaviour relative to birds from the Antipodes Islands, and the data will help us target interventions to mitigate the risk of bycatch in fisheries. Tracking research forms a key component of the actions needed to recover the species.

“That some birds have managed to rear a chick at this little outpost suggests it has potential to become a new colony. However, although birds do return to their hatching site there is a chance that the returning bird may get drawn to the main colony at Antipodes.”

Sally Paterson, the Chief Executive of Live Ocean, says, “We’re losing our Antipodean albatross at pace. Getting accurate data on where they’re going and where they’re getting into trouble is a vital part of enabling decisions and providing focus for conservation efforts.”

Background information

This 2020 chick is the offspring of an Antipodean albatross/toroa/hopo that was banded as a chick at the same location 10 years ago. The species was first observed prospecting for nests at the Chatham Islands in 1998 and breeding was confirmed in 2003. Some nests have been successful, while others have been lost to feral pigs or cats.

Albatross are known in ta re Moriori as ‘Hopo’ and are a sacred bird for Moriori as a symbol of peace. Kōpinga marae (the Moriori marae on Rēkohu/Chatham Island) is designed around the shape of the Hopo as a safe place of home. The very best wishes of the Hokotehi Moriori Trust go with the fledging Antipodean Albatross and we look forward to following its progress and to the recovery of the species.

DOC’s research on wandering albatross.

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, recently included the antipodean albatross.

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