Shy Albatross

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Image:Shy Albatross.JPG

Common Name: Shy Albatross
Scientific Name: Thalassarche cauta

Size: 35-39 inches (90-100 cm); 210–260 cm wingspan

Habitat: Southern Hemisphere; endemic to Australia and it breeds on three island colonies; Albatross Island, Pedra Branca, and the Mewstone. During the breeding season, adults concentrate around southern Australia and Tasmania. Juvenile birds are known to fly as far as South Africa; otherwise, non-breeding birds can be found throughout the southern oceans, but specifics are difficult due to their similarity to the other species. It is sometimes found off the Pacific coast of the United States.

Status: Near Threatened. Global Population: 26,000 mature individuals. These Albatrosses comprised over 12% of seabirds caught by Japanese tuna longliners in Australian waters during 1989-1995 (up to 900 birds per year). The Japanese fishing effort ceased in 1997 and the current domestic effort is concentrated in northern waters where the likelihood of encountering albatrosses is much lower. Currently, there is limited overlap between the distribution of adult Shy Albatrosses and Australian longline fishing effort (although the impact of trawl fisheries is unknown). However, juvenile birds from the Mewstone population are known to traverse the Indian Ocean and forage in waters off South Africa, which brings them into contact with several fisheries that pose a greater bycatch threat. At the small Pedra Branca colony, interaction with the Australasian Gannet Morus serrator (which is increasing across its range) is thought to be the primary cause of the observed rapid declines in the number of chicks produced each year at that colony, and extreme weather conditions may also reduce breeding success on the island. Avian pox virus has been recorded in chicks on Albatross Island (Tasmania) and has the potential to impact population trends through negative impacts to breeding success.

Diet: Fish, cephalapods, crustacea, and tunicates. It feeds by a combination of surface-seizing and some pursuit diving - it has been recorded diving as deep as 5 meters.

Breeding: It is a black, white and slate-grey bird with the characteristic black thumb mark at the base of the leading edge of the under wing. Adults have a white forehead and a crown, which is bordered on the bottom with a dark eyebrow and pale-grey face. Its mantle, tail, and upper wing are grey-black, and the rest is white. Its bill is grey-yellow with a prominent yellow culmen and yellow tip.

Shy Albatross breeds annually in colonies. Nests are a mound of soil, grass and roots, and are located on rock islands. Eggs are mostly laid in the second half of September. They hatch in December and chicks fledge mostly in April. Immature birds return to their breeding colony at least 3 years after fledging, mostly beginning breeding when at least 5 to 6 years old, nearly always in their natal colonies.

Cool Facts: This Albatross is also known as the Shy Mollymawk. It was once considered to be the same species as the Salvin's Albatross, (Thalassarche salvini) and the Chatham Albatross (Thalassarche eremita) but they were split around 2004. It was originally considered to be part of the Mollymawk (Diomedeidae) family which is similar to Shearwaters, Fulmars, Storm and Diving Petrels.

Found in Songbird ReMix Seabirds Volume 2

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