Thalassarche cauta 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Procellariiformes Diomedeidae

Scientific Name: Thalassarche cauta
Species Authority: (Gould, 1841)
Common Name(s):
English Shy Albatross
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.
Taxonomic Notes: Diomedea cauta (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into cauta, eremita and salvini following Brooke (2004) and steadi following Robertson and Nunn (1998) and ACAP (2006), and all placed in the genus Thalassarche following Brooke (2004).

Identification information: 90 cm. Medium-sized black, white and slate-grey albatross with characteristic black thumb mark at the base of the leading edge of the underwing characteristic of the Shy group of albatrosses. Adult has forehead and crown white bordered below by dark eyebrow and pale grey face. Grey-black mantle, upperwing and tail. The remainder is white. Bill grey-yellow, with more prominent yellow culmen, and yellow tip. Similar spp. the very similar White-capped albatross T. steadi is slightly larger and has a paler face and less yellow on the culmen of the bill.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Taylor, J. & Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Alderman, R., Croxall, J., Gales, R. & Robertson, C.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Anderson, O., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Nel, D., Small, C., Stattersfield, A., Sullivan, B., Symes, A.
This species breeds on just three islands. It may be susceptible to stochastic events and human activities, although one nesting site is moderately widely separated from the other two. For this reason it is treated as Near Threatened.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2010 Near Threatened (NT)
2008 Near Threatened (NT)
2007 Near Threatened (NT)
2004 Not Recognized (NR)
2000 Not Recognized (NR)
1994 Not Recognized (NR)
1988 Not Recognized (NR)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Thalassarche cauta is an endemic breeder in Australia, with colonies on three islands off Tasmania. Data submitted to ACAP estimated the total breeding population to be approximately 15,350 breeding pairs: Albatross Island (5,200 pairs), Pedra Branca (130-170 pairs) and the Mewstone (7,600-12,400 pairs). T. cauta was historically killed for the feather trade and the Albatross Island population was reduced to c.300 pairs in 1909 (Johnstone et al. 1975, Brooke 2004). Since then, the population on Albatross Island has been slowly recovering (Brooke 2004), reaching approximately 25% of the pre-exploited population in 2004 (ACAP Species Assessment draft). The historical population size and trend of Mewstone and Pedra Branca are unknown. The population on Pedra Branca may have always been small but it appears competition for nesting space with Australasian Gannets Morus serrator may steadily be reducing the number of fledglings produced on the island each year. Chick production on Pedra Branca dropped from over 100 to 31 between 1993 and 2007, representing a decrease of approximately 9% a year (ACAP 2009). Understanding the at-sea distribution of T. cauta is confounded by its similar appearance to other 'shy-type' albatrosses, particularly T. steadi (Double et al. 2003, ACAP 2006). During the breeding season, adults are relatively sedentary and are concentrated around Tasmania and southern Australia (Garnett and Crowley 2000, Hedd et al. 2001, BirdLife International 2004, Baker et al. 2007). However, juvenile birds from Mewstone (Tasmania) are known to migrate to South Africa (BirdLife International 2004, Baker et al. 2007). One banded bird from Albatross Island has been recovered in northern New Zealand (C.J.R. Robertson in litt. 2008).

Countries occurrence:
Australia; New Zealand; South Africa
Present - origin uncertain:
Angola (Angola); Argentina; Brazil; Chile; Falkland Islands (Malvinas); French Southern Territories; Heard Island and McDonald Islands; Madagascar; Mauritius; Mozambique; Namibia; Norfolk Island; Peru; Réunion; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Uruguay
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 23900000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Number of Locations: 3
Continuing decline in number of locations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The global population of Shy Albatross was estimated to be 12,000 to 19,000 pairs in 2009 (Alderman et al. 2011). Data submitted to ACAP estimated a total population of 15,350 pairs, made up of 5,200 pairs on Albatross Island (in 2010) (Alderman et al. 2011), 7,600-12,400 pairs on Mewstone (in 2005) (Alderman et al. 2011), and 130-170 pairs on Pedra Branca (in 2009) (Alderman et al. 2011). The number of mature individuals is therefore estimated at c.30,700. The global population including non-breeders is now estimated to be 60,000-70,000 individuals.

Trend Justification:  Without knowing the population trend on Mewstone, or the historic population size on Pedra Branca, overall trend over a three generation period (66 years) cannot be accurately assessed.

Current Population Trend: Unknown
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 30700 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
No. of subpopulations: 1 Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: Yes
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation: 100

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Behaviour Shy Albatross breeds annually in colonies. Eggs are mostly laid in the second half of September (Brooke 2004). They hatch in December and chicks fledge mostly in April. Immature birds return to their breeding colony at least 3 years after fledging, mostly beginning breeding when at least 5 to 6 years old, nearly always in their natal colonies. Thalassarche cauta usually forage singly and have been observed taking prey from the surface or occasionally making surface plunges or shallow dives. However, a study using time-depth recorders revealed T. cauta commonly plunge-dive within 3 m of the surface and can swim down to over 7 metres (ACAP 2009). Habitat Breeding Nests are a mound of soil, grass and roots, and are located on rock islands. Diet The main foods are fish and cephlapods (Hedd and Gales 2001), with crustaceans and tunicates also forming a part of the diet. It is a ship-follower and fish processing discharge comprises a significant proportion of its diet.

Systems: Terrestrial; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Unknown
Generation Length (years): 23.1
Movement patterns: Full Migrant
Congregatory: Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Although 'shy-type' albatrosses, (thought largely to be T. cauta) comprised over 12% of seabirds caught by Japanese tuna longliners in Australian waters during 1989-1995 (up to 900 birds per year) (Gales et al. 1998), Japanese fishing effort ceased in 1997 and the current domestic effort is concentrated in northern waters where the likelihood of encountering albatrosses is much lower (Baker et al. 2007). Currently, there is limited overlap between the distribution of adult Shy Albatrosses and Australian longline fishing effort (although the impact of trawl fisheries is unknown). However, juvenile birds from the Mewstone population are known to traverse the Indian Ocean and forage in waters off South Africa, which brings them into contact with several fisheries that pose a greater bycatch threat (Baker et al. 2007). At the small Pedra Branca colony, interaction with the Australasian Gannet Morus serrator (which is increasing across its range) is thought to be the primary cause of the observed rapid declines in the number of chicks produced each year at that colony, and extreme weather conditions may also reduce breeding success on the island (ACAP Species Assessment draft). Avian pox virus has been recorded in chicks on Albatross Island (Tasmania) and has the potential to impact population trends through negative impacts to breeding success (R. Woods and R. Gales in litt. 2008).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II and ACAP Annex 1. Currently disturbance and access issues prevent studies on Pedra Branca and the Mewstone. These two sites are also internationally designated protected sites, being part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (UNEP/CMS 2008).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Analysis of aerial census data and maintenance of current programme for Pedra Branca and the Mewstone (due to logistic difficulties demographic studies of populations on Pedra Branca and the Mewstone population are not feasible). Promote the adoption of a) monitoring of seabird bycatch associated with longline and trawl fishing and b) best-practice mitigation measures in all fisheries within the species's range, including via intergovernmental mechanisms such as ACAP, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and FAO. Mewstone birds appear to travel more extensively than Albatross Island birds and are therefore exposed to interactions with a range of fishing fleets.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2012. Thalassarche cauta. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22729604A38494879. . Downloaded on 25 November 2015.
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