Tristan albatross breeding success in 2020
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Having turned from balls of fluff into 10kg chicks over the past 8 months, this year’s Tristan albatrosses are finally getting ready to fledge.
(Above video) A Tristan albatross exercising its enormous wings. Its wingspan can exceed 3m in length! (M.Risi)
Each year, our team undertakes a count of virtually every Tristan albatross chick on Gough Island – first in January just when eggs are laid and then again in October shortly before fledging, allowing us to assess the success rate of breeding pairs over the season. As no more than 3 eggs are thought to be laid anywhere else on earth, this amounts to a global census of the species, and is truly one of the most challenging tasks for our team!
Our intrepid field team brave the weather to undertake this year’s census.
This year 1,528 nests were counted in January and a total of 569 chicks in October. Thus, the overall breeding success was 37.2%. It varied across the island, with some areas as low as 18.7%, and the highest at 60.9%. But the average still compares extremely poorly with similar species on rodent-free islands where a success rate of 65% is normal.
Around two thirds of the world’s Tristan albatross chicks didn’t make it to fledge this year - many due to invasive non-native house mice which can kill chicks that are 300 times heavier than themselves (M.Risi)
The Tristan albatross is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Once mice are removed from Gough Island, we hope to see the numbers of chicks surviving to fledge increasing substantially.
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The Gough Island Restoration Programme is being carried out by the RSPB in partnership with Tristan da Cunha, BirdLife South Africa, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries in South Africa, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Island Conservation, and Landcare Research. The programme is part-funded by the RSPB, the UK Government, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and other generous individuals and organisations.