Valentine’s Day has arrived early for the shy Albatross, a monogamous bird species that mates for life, as many become mums and dads, welcoming the arrival of some of the first fluffy chicks of the year.
The Tasmanian Shy Albatross, which can only be found in Australia on three islands off the coast of Tasmania, have been struggling to breed due to harsher weather conditions and temperature increases as a result of a climate change.
One of the major problems these majestic sea birds have experienced in Australia, is finding enough nesting material to create a happy home. Conservation scientists from WWF Australia, CSIRO Marine Climate Impact and the Tasmanian Albatross Fund, and funding partners from the Tasmanian and Australian Governments, have worked together to help this vulnerable species, airlifting over one hundred artificial nests to Bass Strait’s Albatross Island in July 2017.
Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment Wildlife Biologist Dr Rachael Alderman said in some parts of the Albatross Island colony, birds struggle to find and keep sufficient nesting material resulting in a poor quality nest.
“Monitoring has shown that birds with inferior nests are less likely to successfully raise a chick,” Dr Alderman said.
“Shy Albatross lay a single egg in late September and those eggs have now hatched. At this stage in the trial, the breeding success of pairs on artificial nests is 20 per cent higher than those on natural nests. There are many more months ahead for all the chicks, and a lot can change, but so far it’s very promising.”
“When the chicks are fully grown and about to fly from the island for the very first time, some will have tiny satellite trackers attached. These devices will capture the movements of first few months at sea and provide scientists with crucial information about why fewer juveniles are surviving,” Dr Alderman said.
WWF-Australia’s Head of Living Ecosystems Darren Grover, who visited the site with Dr Alderman in December, said the benefits of the pre-constructed nests were evident.
“Albatross Island gets hit with wild weather. Good quality nests keep eggs and chicks safe and sound. The artificial nests were all intact but many of natural nests were already starting to deteriorate. That’s not the best start to life for a chick,” he said.
Fellow collaborator, Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Alistair Hobday was also excited with the news.
“In the face of climate change, new approaches will need to developed, tested and evaluated – we are building a tool-box of tested options and this latest news is very encouraging.”
New Threatened Species Commissioner Dr Sally Box said the project was a wonderful example of effective conservation partnership that can serve as a model for future wildlife recovery efforts.
“It’s fantastic to see this project come to fruition. We all have a role to play in protecting our threatened species and thanks to contributions by government, scientists and non-government partners we are starting to some really positive outcomes for the shy albatross in Tasmania.”