Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche carteri


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Endangered on the basis of an estimated very rapid ongoing decline over three generations (71 years), based on data from the population stronghold on Amsterdam Island. This decline is the result of adult mortality and poor recruitment owing to interactions with fisheries and disease.

Population justification

The total population is estimated at 41,086 pairs per year, equating to c. 82,000 mature individuals, and perhaps more than 160,000 individuals of all age classes, using the ratios presented by Gales (1998).

Trend justification
Decline over three generations (71 years) was estimated at 51%, assuming a continuing decline at Amsterdam Island since 1982, and that populations elsewhere remained stable. Amsterdam Island data indicated a 30% decline from 1982-2006 (though split into 58% decline 1982-1995 and stable 1996-2005), with all other populations assumed to remain stable. The Amsterdam Island calculations of decline were based on a study plot (over 250 pairs in 1978 to 113 pairs in 2005). The small study plot declined at 3.7% per annum 1978-2005, while the whole Amsterdam Island population declined by 1.3% per annum 1982-2006. The trend analysis was conducted on the basis of the overall 1.3% decline per year over a 24 year period for Amsterdam Island.

Distribution and population

Thalassarche carteri breeds on Amsterdam, Crozet Islands, Kerguelen Islands, and St Paul Islands (French Southern Territories) and on Prince Edward Island (South Africa). In addition, two breeding pairs were recorded on The Pyramid in 2007. Colonies on Amsterdam Island were estimated at c. 27,000 pairs breeding per year in 2006 (Rolland et al. 2009). In addition, there were an estimated 7,000 pairs on Prince Edward Island in 2008 (Ryan et al. 2009), 7,030 pairs on Crozet Island in 1984 (ACAP 2009), 50 pairs on Kerguelen in 1987 (Weimerskirch and Jouventin 1998) and six pairs on St Paul in 2005, totalling 41,086 pairs per year, equating to c. 82,000 mature individuals, and perhaps more than 160,000 individuals of all age classes (Gales 1998). Colonies on Amsterdam Island declined on average by 58% between 1982 and 1995. The lowest numbers were recorded in 1995, after which some colonies on the island increased or stabilised between 1996 and 2005. The overall trend on Amsterdam is a decline of over 30% between 1982-2006 (Rolland et al. 2009). The population on Prince Edward appears stable: in 2001-2002, 4,170 pairs were counted, representing 7,500 pairs in total once early breeding failures were taken into account (Ryan et al. 2003). However, the figure for Prince Edward Island was recently revised to 7,000 pairs in 2008 (Ryan et al. 2009).  Decline over three generations is estimated at 51%, assuming a continuing decline on Amsterdam Island and populations elsewhere remaining stable. Outside the breeding season, the species disperses throughout the southern Indian Ocean between 30-50 degrees South, and birds are frequently observed off southern Africa and south-western Australia, extending east to the Tasman Sea and north-eastern New Zealand (Harrison 1985). 


Behaviour It breeds annually, and breeding is either solitary or in loose groups. Eggs are laid in September-October and hatch in November-December. Chicks fledge in March-April. It catches prey by surface seizing and shallow diving (ACAP 2009). Diet It feeds mainly on fish and squid, and less frequently on crustaceans (Cherel and Klages 1998, ACAP 2009)Habitat Breeding It breeds on slopes or cliffs, typically in bare, rocky areas but sometimes in tussock-grass and ferns (Brooke 2004)Foraging range Satellite-tracking of birds from Amsterdam Island has shown that breeding birds forage up to 1,500 km from the colony (Pinaud and Weimerskirch 2007).


Incidental capture by commercial longline fisheries represents a major threat to the species. Estimates suggest that up to 600 birds are killed annually, comprising mainly adults in the winter months and immatures during the summer fishing season (Gales 1998, Weimerskirch and Jouventin 1998). Yellow-nosed Albatross species are killed in pelagic longline fisheries off southern Africa (Ryan et al. 2002), and occasionally in South African trawl fisheries (B. Watkins in litt. 2008). During the breeding season, it comes into contact with tuna longliners in subtropical waters (Weimerskirch and Jouventin 1998), and birds (mostly adult males) have been taken by Patagonian Toothfish Dissostichus eleginoides longliners in the vicinity of the Prince Edward Islands (Ryan and Boix-Hinzen 1999). Skewed sex ratios contributed to reducing the effective population size.

The causative agents of avian cholera Pasteurella multocida and Erysipelas Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae are present in the species’ range and pose a potential risk to the population (ACAP 2009). Avian cholera appears to be the cause of the considerably high mortality rates of young chicks that have been recurring erratically but frequently in the population on Amsterdam Island, and has led to dramatic reductions in productivity over the past decade (Weimerskirch 2016). The disease mainly affects young chicks, but adults may also be affected (Weimerskirch 2004). Subsequent declines in certain colonies could be due to dispersal following failed breeding (Rolland et al. 2009). Erysipelas, while widespread, appears to have little impact on the population in comparison with avian cholera (Uhart et al. 2017).

On Amsterdam Island, past habitat destruction by introduced cattle has degraded the breeding sites but fencing of cattle has reduced their impact in recent years (ACAP 2009).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
ACAP Annex 1. Population monitoring and foraging studies have been undertaken at Amsterdam Island. The Prince Edward Islands are a Special Nature Reserve. Vaccination has been tested, but cannot be carried out at a large scale (Weimerskirch 2004). In 2006, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission adopted a measure to require tuna longline fishing vessels to use a bird streamer line when fishing south of 30 degrees South. South Africa requires its longline vessels to use a range of mitigation measures.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to monitor trends at breeding localities, notably Amsterdam, Prince Edward and Crozet Islands. Conduct further research to explore potential for controlling and limiting impact of disease. Conduct further studies of foraging range and interaction with fisheries. Promote adoption of best-practice mitigation measures in all fisheries within the species' range, particularly via intergovernmental mechanisms under auspices of CCAMLR, CMS and FAO.


76 cm. Smallest, black-and-white albatross. Adult has very pale grey or white head and nape. Dark grey mantle, upperwing and tail. White rump and underparts. White underwing with black tip and narrow margin at leading edge. Black bill with yellow upper ridge, with reddish tip. Juvenile has white head and black bill. Similar spp. Very pale head distinguishes adults from more grey-headed Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. chlororhynchos. Juveniles difficult. Separated from other albatrosses by whiter underwing and absence of the thumbmark of Shy Albatross T. cauta, White-capped Albatross T. steadi, Chatham Albatross T. eremita and Salvin's Albatross T. salvini.


Text account compilers
Stuart, A., Sullivan, B., Symes, A., Calvert, R., Butchart, S., Fjagesund, T., Anderson, O., Hermes, C., Martin, R., Moreno, R., Small, C.

Ryan, P.G., Robertson, C., Weimerskirch, H., Crawford, R., Croxall, J., Cooper, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Thalassarche carteri. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/09/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/09/2022.