Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Males arrive at the breeding site before females, with most pairs nesting in February and March (7) (8). A single egg is laid (7), as with all albatrosses, and both parents incubate the egg in stints that last a week (8). The chick hatches after 80 days, is brooded for a month and fledges after approximately 235 days (7) (8). The chick is fed initially every three days by its parents and, at the peak of weight gain, will weigh more than its parents (8). Individuals reach sexual maturity at around nine years, although they often return to the island a few years before then (7) (8). Average life expectancy is 30 to 40 years (6). Due to its rarity the exact diet of this albatross is unknown but is thought to probably consist of fish, squid and crustaceans (2) (6).
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Description

The Amsterdam albatross is an extremely large albatross that breeds only on Amsterdam Island in the southern Indian Ocean (4). When first described in the early 1980s it was believed by some to be a subspecies of the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) (5). This 'great albatross' (Diomedea) breeds in a brown plumage, rather than the more usual white (4). Adults have almost entirely chocolate-brown upper parts, a white face and throat, a broad brown breast-band, a white lower breast and belly, and brown undertail-coverts. The underwing is white, with a dark tip (6).
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Distribution

Range Description

The speciesbreeds on the Plateau des Tourbires on Amsterdam Island (French Southern Territories) in the southern Indian Ocean. It has a total population of c. 170 birds including 80 mature individuals, with c. 26 pairs breeding annually, showing an increase since 1984, when the first census was carried out (Weimerskirch et al. 1997, Inchausti and Weimerskirch 2001, H. Weimerskirch in litt. 2005, 2010, Rains et al. 2011). The population was probably formerly larger when its range was more extensive over the slopes of the island (Weimerskirch et al. 1997). Satellite tracking has shown that adult birds range from the coast of eastern South Africa to the south of western Australia in non-breeding years (Hirschfeld 2008), and possible sightings have been reported from Australia (Environment Australia 1999) and New Zealand (Carboneras 1992b). In July 2013 a bird photographed off the Western Cape represents the first confirmed sight record for South Africa (Cooper 2013).

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Historic Range:
Indian Ocean - Amsterdam Island

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Range

Breeds Amsterdam I. (French subantarctic islands).
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Range

Breeding is restricted to the Plateau des Tourbieres on Amsterdam Island in the southern Indian Ocean (7). During the breeding season birds forage both around Amsterdam Island and up to 2,200 kilometres away in subtropical waters, but non-breeding dispersal is unknown (6).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour Breeding is biennial (when successful) and is restricted to the central plateau of the island at 500-600 m, where only one breeding group is known. The plateau is composed of saturated peat with typical plant communities including mosses, liverworts, ferns and grasses (ACAP 2013). Pair-bonds are lifelong, and breeding begins in February (Hirschfeld 2008). Most eggs are laid from late February to March, and chicks fledge in January-February the following year (ACAP 2009). Immature birds begin to return to breeding colonies between four and seven years after fledging but do not begin to breed until they are nine years of age (ACAP 2009). Diet Its exact diet is unknown, but probably consists of fish, squid and crustaceans (Jouventin et al. 1989, Jouventin 1994b). Foraging range During the breeding season, birds forage both around Amsterdam Island and up to 2,200 km away in subtropical waters (H. Weimerskirch unpublished data).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Marine
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This marine, highly pelagic albatross spends the majority of its life out at sea, coming to land only to breed (2). Nesting occurs on a highland plateau at 470 to 640 meters in an area of peat bog that has an ample covering of moss (2) (7).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
B2ab(v); C2a(ii)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2015

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Symes, A.

Contributor/s
Cooper, J., Croxall, J., Weimerskirsch, H., Barbraud, C., Misiak, W. & Micol, T.

Justification
This species qualifies as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small population, confined to a tiny area on one island. Although numbers have recently been increasing, a continuing decline is projected owing to the impact of a disease which is probably already causing chick mortality.


History
  • 2013
    Critically Endangered (CR)
  • 2012
    Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Threatened (T)