White-capped Albatross (Diomedea steadi)

Taxonomy

Also known as Diomedea cauta steadi Auckland Shy Albatross (AKSA) and treated as conspecific with Tasmanian Shy Albatross Diomedea cauta cauta (e.g. in Tickell 2000) .

Traditionally lumped with Shy Albatross, Salvin's Albatross and Chatham Island Albatross. Very similar to Shy Albatrosses breeding in Australia and may simply be the New Zealand equivalent. This taxonomy may be subject to revision but is adopted here largely to highlight the specific problems faced by the different breeding populations and focus attention on their at-sea identification.
 

Identification

Young immatures and juveniles are virtually indistinguishable from other Shy-complex members on current knowledge (Russ and Shirihai 2000).
 

Where and When

Breeds on Disappointment Island, Adams Island, Auckland Island, and Bollons Island, all of which belong to New Zealand. There are thought to be a total of 75,000 breeding pairs and a world population of 350,000-375,000 (reviewed in Gales, 1998). The majority breed on the lower slopes of Disappointment Island (60,000-72,000 pairs) with smaller numbers on the South West Cape of the main Auckland Island (4,000 pairs max) and adjacent western tip of Adams Island (50-200 pairs). A handful have nested on Bollons Island in the Antipodes and a single pair on the Forty-fours in the Chathams.

Breeding cycle poorly known. Egg laying starts in mid-November and the chicks fledge in mid-August. Habitat destruction on Aukland Island (due to feral pigs) and longlining in New Zealand waters present threats. Accidental mortality during longline fishing for squid represents the most serious concern. White-capped Albatross make up 85% of the bycatch in New Zealand waters. New avoidance measure will hopefully reduce this significantly. Bycatch associated with the bluefin tuna fishery is also a serious concern.
 

Literature

Gales R. (1998) Albatross populations: status and threats. In 'Albatross Biology and Conservation'. (Eds. Robertson, G. and Gales, R.) Chp 3, p 20-45. Surrey Beatty and Sons Ltd.

Johnstone, G.W., Milledge, D. and Dorward, D.F. (1975) The white-capped albatross of Albatross Island: numbers and breeding behaviour. Emu 75(1) . 1-11

Russ, R. and Shirihai, H. (2000) The birds, marine mammals, habitat and history of the subantarctic islands off New Zealand. Alula 3(6): 82-147.

Tickell, W. L. N. (2000) Albatrosses. Yale University Press.


Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved. Angus Wilson
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