Saturday, 14 June 2014

Black-browed albatross

Thalassarche melanophris

Photo by Jose Xavier (Antarctic Field Guide)

Common name:
black-browed albatross (en); albatroz-de-sobrancelha (pt); albatros à sourcils noirs (fr); albatros de ceja negra (es); schwarzbrauenalbatros (de)

Order Procellariiformes
Family Diomedeidae

This species has a circumpolar distribution, being found from the polar waters of Antarctica north to the coasts of southern Australia, Namibia and southern Mozambique in Africa and Peru and south-eastern Brazil in South America. They have breeding colonies in the Falkland Islands, Islas Diego Ramirez, Ildefonso, Diego de Almagro and Isla Evangelistas in Chile, South Georgia, Crozet and Kerguelen Islands in the Southern Ocean, Heard and McDonald Islands and Macquarie Island in Australia, and Campbell and Antipodes Islands in New Zealand.

These birds are 80-95 cm long and have a wingspan of 200-240 cm. They weigh 2,9-4,7 kg.

The black-browed albatross forages in oceanic waters, usually favouring shelf and shelf-break areas. They breed in steep slopes with tussock grass, sometimes on cliff terraces, or on flat ground along the shore line.

They feed mainly on crustaceans, fish and squids, but also take carrion, fish discards and sometimes smaller seabirds such as Wildon's storm petrels Oceanites oceanicus. They show kleptoparasitic behaviour, stealing food from other species.

Black-browed albatrosses are monogamous and breed in large colonies that can count thousands of breeding pairs. They breed in September-April. The nest on the ground and the female lays a single egg which is incubated by both parents for 68-71 days. The chick is fed by both parents and fledge 120-130 days after hatching. They reach sexual maturity at 10 years of age.

IUCN - NT (Near-Threatened)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and a global population estimated at 1,4 million individuals. The main breeding population, in the Falkland Islands has shown an increase in recent decades, which outwheights declines elsewhere and justifies the estimate that the global population is increasing. Some breeding population are threatened by by-catch in long-line fisheries, while the explosion in European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus numbers on Macquarie Island led to an extensive destruction of habitat and soil erosion at nesting sites and cats are a problem in other islands. Conservation action underway include an eradication programme for rodents in Macquarie Island.

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