Justification of Red List Category
This species has been downlisted to Near Threatened as it is no longer estimated to be undergoing very rapid population declines. Survey data from the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), holding over 70% of the global population, showed population increases during the 2000s and possibly since the 1980s, and the data suggest reclassification as Least Concern, however there remains a considerable degree of uncertainty over population trends for a significant part of the global population, and trend estimates are heavily influenced by the extrapolation over 65 years of data from a ten-year period. In addition, high levels of mortality of this species are reported from longline and trawl fisheries in the South Atlantic. For these reasons, moderately rapid ongoing declines over three generations since 1980 are precautionarily suspected until further data are forthcoming.
The annual breeding population in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) was estimated at 475,500-535,000 pairs in 2010 (Wolfaardt 2012). In Chile there were 55,000 pairs on Diego Ramirez in 2003, 58,000 pairs on Ildefonso in 2012 (Robertson et al. 2013), and 15,500 pairs on Diego de Almagro in 2002 (Lawton et al. 2003). If an assumption is made that the South Georgia (Georgias del Sur) population is declining at the same rate as the colony on Bird Island (c.4% pa) then the population there may have declined to c.56,000 pairs by 2012 (ACAP unpubl. data). There are an estimated c.5,800 pairs in other populations (Antipodes, Campbell, Heard and MacDonald, Crozet, Kerguelen, Macquarie, Snares; ACAP unpubl. data), giving a total of c.700,000 pairs (1,400,000 mature individuals), very roughly equating to 2,100,000 individuals.
In 2010, an archipelago-wide survey was conducted for the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). Both the aerial and ground-based surveys conducted in 2010 revealed an increase of at least 4% per annum between 2005 and 2010. This positive trend is supported by demographic data and an additional aerial photographic survey conducted later in the 2010 breeding season (Wolfaardt 2012). It was also concluded that the islands’ population is likely to have increased since the first archipelago-wide ground survey in 2000, and possibly even since the initial ground based surveys were conducted at Beauchêne and Steeple Jason islands in the 1980s. Population trends from Chile (15-20% of the global population) are largely unknown. On South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), which held c.13% of the global population, only a relatively crude assessment can be made of the overall population trend (using estimates from Poncet et al. 2006 and extrapolating annual declines of 4% since 2006 on Bird lsland), but these suggest a substantial decrease. Incorporating these new data, the global population appears no longer to be undergoing ongoing declines over three generations since 1980, since increases in the population at the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) outweigh declines elsewhere such as at South Georgia (Georgias del Sur). The extrapolated trend over a three generation period (65 years) commencing in 1980 is a 246% increase, however there remains a considerable degree of uncertainty over population trends for a significant part of the global population, and this figure is heavily influenced by the extrapolation over 65 years of data from a ten-year period. In addition, high levels of mortality of this species are reported from longline and trawl fisheries in the South Atlantic. For these reasons, declines approaching 30% over three generations are precautionarily suspected until further data are forthcoming.
Thalassarche melanophris has a circumpolar distribution ranging from subtropical to polar waters (ACAP 2009), breeding in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), Islas Diego Ramirez, Ildefonso, Diego de Almagro and Isla Evangelistas (Chile), South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), Crozet and Kerguelen Islands (French Southern Territories), Heard and McDonald Islands and Macquarie Island (Australia), and Campbell and Antipodes Islands, New Zealand (Croxall and Gales 1998). Two breeding sites are also found in southern Chile on islets in Tierra del Fuego and in the Mallaganes region (ACAP 2009). One colony was also recorded on Snares Island in 1986 (ACAP 2009). The total breeding population was estimated at c.700,000 pairs in 2010, c.72% at the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), 19% in Chile and 8% at South Georgia (ACAP unpubl. data). Numbers in the Falklands apparently increased substantially during the 1980s, and were thought to have since declined, however aerial and ground-based surveys conducted in 2010 revealed an increase of at least 4% per annum between 2005 and 2010 (Wolfaardt 2012). The small population on Heard Island (c.600 pairs) appears to have increased over the past 50 years. Trends are still uncertain for the populations in Chile. Adult survival on South Georgia decreased from 93% pre-1970 to 89% in 1987, and breeding success also decreased over the same period from 36% to 18% (Croxall 2008).
Behaviour This is a colonial, annually breeding species, although only 75% of successful breeders and 67% of failed breeders breed the following year. Individuals arrive at colonies in September, laying in early October with chicks hatching in December and fledging between April and May. Immature birds begin to return to land at the age of two with the numbers of returning birds increasing up to the age of six. The median age of first breeding is 10 years (range 8-13) (ACAP 2009). During incubation, breeding birds tend to remain in areas adjacent to or to the north of their colonies in the shelf, shelf-break and shelf-slope waters (ACAP 2009). At Campbell Island, Black-browed Albatross show a unique bimodal foraging strategy, alternating between short trips to shelf areas around the breeding site and long trips to the Polar Front (Waugh et al. 1999). Birds foraging over the Benguela Current during the winter also showed a bimodal feeding strategy, alternating trips over deep, oceanic waters with trips over the continental shelf (Petersen et al. 2008). During incubation on South Georgia, satellite tracking reveals males and females forage in different areas with almost no overlap (Phillips et al. 2004). After breeding, birds from the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) winter on the Patagonian Shelf (N. Huin in litt 2008), whereas birds from South Georgia predominantly migrate to South African waters, spending the first half of the winter in the highly productive Benguela Current (Phillips et al. 2005). Black-browed Albatross from Chile make use of the Chilean Shelf, the Patagonian Shelf, and some spend the non-breeding season around north New Zealand. Habitat Breeding The species nests colonially on steep slopes with tussock grass, sometimes on cliff terraces, but the largest colonies in the Falklands are on flat ground along the shore line. Diet It feeds mainly on crustaceans, fish and squid, and also on carrion and fishery discards (Cherel et al. 2002, Arata et al. 2003, Xavier et al. 2003). A Wilson’s Storm-petrel was recorded in the stomach contents of a bycaught individual on the Patagonian Shelf (Seco Pon and Gandini 2008), and while various Sphenisciformes and Procellariiformes have been found in the stomachs of albatrosses, penguins tend to be recorded more frequently, although none are typical prey items (Seco Pon and Gandini 2008). The exact composition of its diet varies depending on locality and year (ACAP 2009). Foraging Range During chick-rearing, breeding T. melanophrys initially stay in shelf to shelf-slope areas very close to their colonies (within c. 500 km). Later, birds from Chile and South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur) may also travel up to c. 3,000 km from their breeding sites, especially to the Antarctic Peninsula and South Orkney Islands, but birds from the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and Kerguelen continue to remain close to their colonies (ACAP 2009).
Declines may be attributable to increased longline fishing effort and/or the development of new longline fisheries over much of the Patagonian Shelf, around South Georgia, off the southern African coast, and in the Southern Ocean (Tuck and Polacheck 1997, Prince et al. 1998, Schiavini et al. 1998, Stagi et al. 1998). Indeed, it is one of the most frequently killed species in many longline fisheries including tuna longliners off southern Africa, the pelagic longline swordfish fishery off Chile and Argentine longliners targeting toothfish and kingclip on the Patagonian shelf (Murray et al. 1993, Gales et al. 1998, Ryan and Boix-Hinzen 1998, Schiavini et al. 1998, Stagi et al. 1998, Ryan et al. 2002 Reid and Sullivan 2004, Bugoni et al. 2008). Capture rates can vary greatly according to season, number of hooks and type of longline (Bugoni et al. 2008). Over recent years, mortality in trawl fisheries has been identified as a major source of mortality for this species over the Patagonian Shelf (Sullivan and Reid 2002) and South Africa (Watkins et al. 2007), with an estimated minimum 5,000 killed per annum across the deep-water hake trawl fishery in south African waters during winter (Watkins et al. 2008). Recent large-scale volcanic eruptions at Heard Island (2003-2004 in particular) may have caused most birds to desert nesting sites (ACAP 2009). The explosion in European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus numbers on Macquarie Island since 1999 has led to an extensive destruction of habitat and soil erosion at nesting sites. An eradication programme targeting rodents commenced in 2010. Cats (Felis catus) are thought to impact upon colonies on the Kerguelen Islands at Jeanne d'Arc Peninsula (ACAP 2009).
Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II and ACAP Annex 1. It is monitored at South Georgia, Kerguelen, Campbell, Diego Ramirez and the Falkland Islands. Most breeding sites are reserves. Heard and McDonald, Macquarie, and the New Zealand islands are World Heritage Sites. An initial census of Chilean islands has been completed (Lawton et al. 2004).
88 cm. Medium-sized albatross. Dark grey saddle and upperwings contrast strongly with white head, rump and underparts. Underwing is largely white with very broad, rather irregular, black margins. Dark eyebrow and yellow-orange bill with darker red-orange tip. Juveniles and sub-adults have dark, horn-coloured bills with dark tips, grey on head and collar, and dark underwing, which lightens with age. Similar spp. Juveniles can be very similar to juvenile Grey-headed Albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma but show faintly black-tipped bills and darker ridges.
Text account compilers
Anderson, O., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Small, C., Sullivan, B. & Symes, A.
Arata, J., Croxall, J., Huin, N., Misiak, W., Phillips, R., Robertson, G. & Stanworth, A.
BirdLife International (2017) Species factsheet: Thalassarche melanophris. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/10/2017. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2017) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/10/2017.