Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Black-footed albatross

Phoebastia nigripes

Photo by James Lloyd (PBase)

Common name:
black-footed albatross (en); albatroz-de-patas-negras (pt); albatros à pieds noirs (fr); albatros de patas negras (es); schwarzfußalbatros (de)

Order Procellariiformes
Family Diomedeidae

This species is found in the northern Pacific Ocean, from the Bearing Sea down to Hawaii and Guam, breeding only in the northwestern Hawaian islands, in a few small islands and atolls between Hawaii and the Marshall islands and in three outlying islands of Japan.

These birds are 68-80 cm long and have a wingspan of 190-220 cm. They weigh 2,6-4,3 kg.

The black footed albatross is a pelagic bird, foraging in the open sea and breeding in sandy beaches and slopes with little or no vegetation on small oceanic islands.

They mainly feed on the eggs of flying fish and squids, and to a lesser extent on crustaceans and fishes and fish offal from ships and human refuse.

Black-footed albatrosses breed in October-May. They are monogamous and mate for life. They breed in colonies and each nest is a shallow scrape on sandy ground, made by both sexes. There the female lays a single dull white egg with reddish-brown spots, which is incubated by both parents for 63-67 days. The chick is fed by both parents and although they may wander away from the nest after 2-3 months it only fledge 5-6 months after hatching. they only start breeding at 9 years of age.

IUCN status - VU (Vulnerable)
This species has a very restricted breeding range and the global population estimated at 129.000 individuals. The population trend in uncertain, as different estimates indicate either negative or positive trends, but this species is known to suffer from by-catch of fishing vessels, which kills up to 10.000 black-footed albatrosses each year. Other threats include organochlorine and heavy metal pollution, loss of nests to waves, introduced predators such as Polynesian rat Rattus exulans, accidental ingestion of plastic and volcanic eruption on the japanese island of Torishima.

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