Conventional wisdom dictates that young albatrosses disperse over the ocean after fledging and that they remain at sea, unobservable and uncountable, for years, until they are ready to breed. A new study, however, suggests this may not always be the case.
Writing in The Condor: Ornithological Applications, researchers with Pacific Rim Conservation, a nonprofit organization, report that Laysan Albatrosses from two small, closely monitored colonies on Oahu returned when they were only one year old.
The researchers banded hundreds of chicks and identified every bird at the colonies from 2002 to 2015, sometimes using motion-activated remote cameras. At least 2 percent returned as one-year-olds, 7 percent returned as two-year-olds, and 17 percent showed up as three-year-olds. Prebreeding birds made up 44 percent of the total population, on average.
The average age at first breeding was 8.44 years, similar to the age calculated in studies of Laysan Albatrosses on Midway Atoll.
“Until more recent estimates from other colonies become available,” write the researchers, “our estimates are the best available information for use in modeling exercises for albatross populations in the North Pacific and for selecting the management options that are likely to be most cost-effective.”
Read the paper
Eric A. VanderWerf and Lindsay C. Young (2016) Juvenile Survival, Recruitment, Population Size, and Effects of Avian Pox Virus in Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) on Oahu, Hawaii, USA. The Condor: Ornithological Applications: November 2016, Vol. 118, No. 4, pp. 804-814. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1650/CONDOR-16-49.1
You can read more about the albatrosses at Midway in the January-February 2017 issue of BirdWatching. The issue goes on sale at Barnes & Noble and on other newsstands January 10, 2017.
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