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Albatross research suggests conservation methods

Albatross research suggests conservation methods after studying juvenile birds for 14 years.

In order to help conserve long-lived species, we need to collect data to understand their lifestyles. However, tracking down young albatrosses has in the past proven difficult. Today, a new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications worked with these “prebreeders” to report estimates of the population size and survival rates of young birds.

Husband-and-wife team Eric VanderWerf and Lindsay Young of Pacific Rim Conservation spent 14 years banding 477 Oahu albatrosses as chicks and monitoring their lives. Their research has disproven long-held notions about the Albatross’ habits.

The research reported that

  • Despite the prevailing belief that young albatrosses remain at sea until they are ready to breed, 2% of birds return as one-year olds, 7% as two-year olds and 17% as three-year olds.
  • Prebreeders make up almost half of the Oahu population.
  • After fledging, the annual survival was very high – estimated at about 97%.

A common threat to the albatross populations is the mosquito-borne disease known as avian pox virus. Even though the birds have a strong immunity to the virus, this can affect their survival and chances of finding a mate. The scientists conclude that we need to understand the disease better in order to protect future generations of albatrosses.

Oregon State University’s Dr. Robert Suryan, a seabird ecologist, said, “These results are highly relevant to the study, conservation, and management of long-lived species.”

Read the full study: The Condor: Ornithological Applications

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