Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Procellariiformes Procellariidae

Scientific Name: Macronectes giganteus
Species Authority: (Gmelin, 1789)
Common Name(s):
English Southern Giant Petrel, Antarctic Giant-Petrel, Southern Giant Petrel, Southern Giant-Petrel
French Pétrel géant
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
Identification information: 87 cm. Very large petrel with huge bill. White morph unmistakable, normally flecked black. Dark morph has sooty-black juvenile, becoming paler with age. Adult has off-white head, neck, upper breast. Rest of plumage mottled greyish-brown, with paler feather along leading edge of wing. Pale bases to underside of inner primaries. All ages, pale pea-green tip to yellowish bill. Can appear uniform at sea. Grey-brown legs. Similar spp. Same size as smaller albatrosses, but has huge bill, shorter narrower wings and humpbacked shape. Adult Northern Giant-petrel M. halli has red-brown tip to bill, and lacks pale leading edge to wing.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Deliry, C., Fraser, W., Patterson-Fraser, D., Croxall, J., Phillips, R., Cooper, J., Bretagnolle, V., Hilton, G., Ryan, P.G., Keys, H. & Pistorius, P.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Stattersfield, A., Shutes, S., Butchart, S., Sullivan, B., Bird, J., Symes, A., Black, A.
Recent analysis of trend data for the global population over the past three generations (64 years) gives a best case estimate of a 17 % increase and a worst case scenario of a 7.2 % decline (Chown et al 2008 to SCAR); declines consequently do not approach the threshold for classification as Vulnerable and the species has been downlisted from Near Threatened to Least Concern.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2009 Least Concern (LC)
2008 Near Threatened (NT)
2007 Near Threatened (NT)
2005 Vulnerable (VU)
2004 Vulnerable (VU)
2000 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
1988 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Macronectes giganteus breeds on the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), Staten Island and islands off Chubut Province (Argentina), South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), the South Orkney (Orcadas del Sur) and South Shetland Islands (Shetland del Sur), islands near the Antarctic Continent and Peninsula, Prince Edward Islands (South Africa), Crozet Islands (French Southern Territories), Heard Island and Macquarie Island (Australia), with smaller populations on Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha (St Helena to UK), Diego Ramirez and Isla Noir (Chile), Kerguelen Islands (French Southern Territories), and four localities on the Antarctic Continent including Terre Adélie. In the 1980s, the population was estimated at 38,000 pairs (Hunter 1985), declining by 18% to 31,000 pairs in the late 1990s (Rootes 1988). Populations at Heard and Macquarie declined 50% between the 1960s and late 1980s (Woehler 1991, Woehler 2006). Many Antarctic Peninsula populations decreased to the mid-1980s (e.g. >50% at Signy, South Orkneys) (Patterson et al. undated). The population at Terre Adélie declined from c.80 pairs in the 1960s to 10-15 pairs in 2000. However, recent data indicate a number of populations have stabilised or increased, e.g. Possession Island (Crozet) (Patterson et al. undated), Gough Island (Cuthbert and Sommer in litt 2004)and Heard Island (Woehler 2006). A comprehensive 2004-2005 survey of all breeding colonies on the Falkland Islands recorded 19,523 breeding pairs (Reid and Huin 2005). This represents a dramatic increase over the previous estimate of 5,000-10,000 pairs in the Falkland Islands, and is thought to represent a combination of improved knowledge and a genuine population increase. Similarly, a comprehensive survey of all known breeding sites in the South Georgia archipelago, between 2005 and 2006, indicates a population increase since the 1980s (Poncet et al. in litt. 2008), and the global population is now estimated at c.54,000 breeding pairs (Chown et al. unpubl. report 2008). Data from birds tracked from South Georgia indicate that breeders remain in the same ocean sector during the nonbreeding season (Hunter and Brooke 1982). By comparison, ringing recoveries suggest that juveniles disperse much more widely (Hunter 1984b). Males and females have distinct foraging ranges during the breeding season (Gonzalez-Solis and Croxall 2005).

Countries occurrence:
Antarctica; Argentina; Australia; Brazil; Chile; Falkland Islands (Malvinas); French Southern Territories; Heard Island and McDonald Islands; Madagascar; Mozambique; Namibia; New Zealand; Norfolk Island; Peru; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Africa; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Uruguay
Regionally extinct:
Bouvet Island
Fiji; French Polynesia; Réunion; Seychelles
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2: 5900
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 94700000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Number of Locations: 11-100
Continuing decline in number of locations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Upper elevation limit (metres): 300
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: A total of 46,800 pairs and approaching 100,000 mature individuals (roughly equating to 150,000 total individuals) can be estimated from Patterson et al. (in press) and unpublished data from Falklands Conservation and British Antarctic Survey. This consists of an estimated 19,500 pairs on the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), 5,500 pairs on South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), 5,400 pairs on South Shetland Islands (Shetland del Sur), 3,350 pairs on South Orkney Island (Orcadas del Sur) (British Antarctic Survey unpubl. data), 2,500 pairs on Heard and MacDonald Islands (DPIW unpubl. data), 2,145 pairs on Macquarie Island, 2,300 pairs in South America, 2,300 pairs on the Tristan da Cunha Islands, 280 pairs on the Antarctic Continent. In addition, Patterson et al. (in litt. undated) estimate 1,190 pairs on the Antarctic Peninsula, 1,550 pairs on the South Sandwich Islands, 1,800 pairs on Prince Edward Islands, 1,060 pairs on Iles Crozet and four pairs in Iles Kerguelen.

Trend Justification:  Recent trends are variable, with some populations continuing to decline (British Antarctic Survey unpubl. data; Patterson et al. undated), some stable (Gonzalez-Solis and Croxall 2005) and others showing substantial increases, including populations on Patagonia (Quintana et al. 2006) and Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) (Reid and Huin 2005) and a soon to be published study of the South Georgia population (Poncet et al. in litt. 2008). Importantly, the latter populations represent the two largest populations in the world, and the overall global trend is now increasing. Combining trend data for both regions (north and south of 60°S) gives a best estimate of a 17 % increase and a worst case scenario of a 7.2 % decline over the past three generations (64 years) (Chown et al 2008 to SCAR), and it is precautionarily assumed here to have undergone a slow decline during this period.

Current Population Trend: Increasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 65000-100000 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It typically nests in loose colonies on grassy or bare ground. However, in the Falkland Islands it can nest in large, relatively dense colonies (Reid and Huin 2005). Average age of first breeding is c.10 years, and mean adult annual survival at South Georgia is 90% (Hunter 1984a). It feeds on carrion, cephalopods, krill, offal, discarded fish and refuse from ships, often feeding near trawlers and longliners (Hunter and Brooke 1982, Hunter 1983). Males and females exhibit clearly defined spatial segregation in their foraging ranges (Gonzalez-Solis et al. 2000, Quintana and Dell' Arciprete 2002, BirdLife International 2004).

Systems: Terrestrial; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Unknown
Generation Length (years): 21.3
Movement patterns: Full Migrant
Congregatory: Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): A total of 2,000-4,000 giant-petrels were estimated killed in illegal or unregulated Southern Ocean longline fisheries for Patagonian toothfish Dissostichus eleginoides in 1997-1998 (CCAMLR 1997, CCAMLR 1998) and the species has been shown to be killed in trawl fisheries in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) (Sullivan et al. 2006). However, improved mitigation in many longline fisheries appears to have reduced bycatch levels of this species around some breeding colonies (Quintana et al. 2006). Localised decreases have also been attributed to reductions in southern elephant seal Mirounga leonina (an important source of carrion), human disturbance and persecution (Hunter 1984a, P. G. Ryan in litt. 1999, Pfeiffer and Peters 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II and ACAP Annex 1. It is monitored at South Georgia, Marion, Crozet and Macquarie Islands, and at Terre Adélie. Several breeding islands are nature reserves; Gough and Macquarie are World Heritage Sites. The population at Gough Island was censused in 2000-2001, and again in 2003, and a monitoring protocol has been devised (Cuthbert and Sommer 2004).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue monitoring. Conduct surveys of major breeding sites. Minimise disturbance at breeding sites. Research movements and migration. Promote adoption of best-practice mitigation measures in all fisheries within its range, particularly via existing and proposed intergovernmental mechanisms under auspices of CCAMLR, CMS and FAO.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2012. Macronectes giganteus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22697852A40185103. . Downloaded on 04 October 2015.
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