Thalassarche chrysostoma 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Procellariiformes Diomedeidae

Scientific Name: Thalassarche chrysostoma
Species Authority: (Forster, 1785)
Common Name(s):
English Grey-headed Albatross, Grey-headed Mollymawk, Gray-headed Albatross
French Albatros à tête grise
Diomedea chrysostoma chrysostoma Collar et al. (1994)
Diomedea chrysostoma chrysostoma Cramp and Simmons (1977-1994)
Diomedea chrysostoma chrysostoma Turbott (1990)
Diomedea chrysostoma chrysostoma Christidis and Boles (1994)
Diomedea chrysostoma chrysostoma Stotz et al. (1996)
Diomedea chrysostoma chrysostoma Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993)
Diomedea chrysostoma chrysostoma Dowsett and Forbes-Watson (1993)
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: 81 cm. Small albatross with dark ashy-grey head, throat and upper neck. Blackish upper wings, mantle and tail. White rump. White crescent behind eye. Black bill with bright yellow upper and lower ridges, shading to pink-orange at tip. White underparts. White underwing with much black on leading edge, less on trailing edge. Immature has mostly black bill and head, nape darker than adult, indistinct white eye-crescent, virtually no white on underwing. Similar spp. Underwing pattern distinguishes it from Buller's Albatross T. bulleri (which has more yellow on bill), yellow-nosed species, and Shy Albatross T. cauta, Chatham Albatross T. eremita and Salvin's Albatross T. salvini. Immatures difficult.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A4bd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2013-11-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Arata, J., Cooper, J., Croxall, J., Gales, R., Phillips, R., Robertson, C., Ryan, P.G., Xavier, J. & Misiak, W.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Anderson, O., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Small, C., Sullivan, B. & Symes, A.
This species has been uplisted to Endangered as data from some major colonies, in particular South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), which holds around half the global population, suggest that overall declines are taking place at a very rapid rate over three generations (90 years), even if colonies lacking trend information are assumed to be stable. The major driver of declines is likely to be incidental mortality on longline fisheries.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2012 Vulnerable (VU)
2010 Vulnerable (VU)
2008 Vulnerable (VU)
2007 Vulnerable (VU)
2005 Vulnerable (VU)
2004 Vulnerable (VU)
2003 Vulnerable (VU)
2000 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt)
1988 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Thalassarche chrysostoma has a circumpolar distribution over cold subantarctic and Antarctic waters (ACAP 2009). It breeds on South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), Islas Diego Ramirez and Ildefonso (Chile), Prince Edward and Marion Islands (South Africa), Crozet Islands, Kerguelen Islands (French Southern Territories), Campbell Island (New Zealand) and Macquarie Island (Australia). The annual breeding population is c.95,000 pairs, equivalent to a total population of c.250,000 mature individuals in this biennially breeding bird (Croxall and Gales 1998, Brooke 2004). Approximately half the global population occurs on South Georgia (ACAP 2009). Its range at sea while breeding lies largely within or south of the Antarctic Polar Frontal Zone (Prince et al. 1998, Phillips et al. 2004). During the non-breeding season South Georgia birds have been recorded making one or more global circumnavigations, the fastest in just 46 days (Croxall et al. 2005). All New Zealand banded birds have been recovered west of New Zealand in Australian zone (G. Taylor in litt. 2008). At South Georgia, the population is estimated to have declined by 25% between 1977 and 2004 (Poncet et al. 2006; R. Phillips verbally 2012), while on Campbell Island the population underwent major declines prior to 1997 but has apparently since stabilised (W. Misiak in litt. 2013). Population trends are unknown for Chile, Iles Kerguelen and Iles Crozet (representing around one third of the global population), and increasing on Marion Island (ACAP 2012). Very rapid overall declines appear to be taking place even if it is assumed colonies without trend information have remained stable.

Countries occurrence:
Antarctica; Argentina; Australia; Brazil; Chile; Falkland Islands (Malvinas); French Southern Territories; Heard Island and McDonald Islands; Namibia; New Zealand; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Africa; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Uruguay
Angola (Angola); Panama
Present - origin uncertain:
Bouvet Island; Peru
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2: 1800
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 1800
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
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There are an estimated c.95,000 pairs breeding per year of this biennially breeding species, based on annual breeding population estimates of 47,674 pairs on South Georgia in 2004 (Poncet et al. 2006), 17,187 pairs in Chile in 2003 (Robertson et al. 2007), 7,905 pairs on Kerguelen in 1985 (Weimerskirch et al. 1988), 7,800 pairs on Campbell Island (Moore 2004), 6,709 pairs on Marion Island in 2013 (ACAP unpubl. data), 5,946 on Crozet in 1982 (Jouventin et al. 1984), 2,000 pairs on Prince Edward Island in 2009 (Ryan et al. 2009) and 69 pairs on Macquarie Island in 2013 (ACAP unpubl. data). This is thought to be equivalent to at least 250,000 mature individuals (Croxall and Gales 1998, Brooke 2004).

Trend Justification:  At South Georgia, the population is estimated to have declined by 25% between 1977 and 2004 (Poncet et al. 2006; R. Phillips verbally 2012), which equates to a projected decline of 85% if declines continued at this rate over three generations. On Campbell Island, data from 2004 suggest that the population declined by over 75% between 1940 – 2004 (Moore 2004; Nel et al. 2002), which would equate to a 95% decline over three generations. However, recent unpublished information suggests that this population underwent a major decline until 1997 but has since stabilised (W. Misiak in litt. 2013). Population trends are unknown for Chile, Iles Kerguelen and Iles Crozet (representing around one third of the global population). Also, in contrast to South Georgia and Campbell Island, the population on Marion Island has reported a 1.2% annual population increase from 1988-2011 (ACAP 2012). Combining these data (see attached spreadsheet), even if the Chilean, Iles Kerguelen and Iles Crozet colonies are assumed to be stable, the data from South Georgia and Campbell Island result in a projected global population decline of 65.4% over three generations. Given the uncertainty around these estimates, particularly the likely future trends, and the long trend period, a decline of 50-79% over 90 years is provisionally estimated.

Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 250000 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Behaviour This species is a biennial breeder, although 5.4% and 1% of successful breeders on Marion Island and Bird Island respectively, attempt to breed annually. Birds return to colonies between late September and early October, laying occurs in October and chicks hatch by December. Chicks fledge from April to May, returning to breeding colonies at the earliest at three years of age but generally at six or seven years old. First breeding can begin as early as seven years, but the average age on Campbell Island is 13.5 years old and the modal age on South Georgia is 12 years old. It feeds by surface-seizing but can also dive up to depths of six metres (ACAP 2009). Substantial segregation in foraging areas is apparent for male and female Grey-headed Albatross during incubation at South Georgia, with males travelling on average further than females (Phillips et al. 2004). At Iles Kerguelen, Campbell Island and South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur), the species is principally an oceanic forager, concentrating in the Antarctic Polar Frontal Zone and associated oceanic upwellings. However, in years of low availability, chick-rearing birds from South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur) forage mainly in Antarctic shelf-slope waters around the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. Prey biogeography also indicates some neritic foraging around Iles Kerguelen and Campbell Island during chick rearing (ACAP 2009). On Marion Island, incubating birds foraged in the Sub-tropical Frontal Zone and the Subantarctic Zone in association with what are most likely eddies. In contrast, during chick rearing, foraging was concentrated in the Subantarctic and Polar Frontal Zones to the south-west of the island, also in association with eddies (Nel et al. 2000, Nel et al. 2001). Habitat Breeding It breeds on steep slopes or cliffs, generally with tussock-grass. Diet Its diet is variable with locality and year (ACAP 2009). It feeds mainly on cephalopods and fish, but crustaceans, carrion and lampreys are locally important (Prince 1980, Cherel et al. 2002, Xavier et al. 2003, Arata et al. 2004). It actively scavenges longline baits.
Systems: Terrestrial; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Unknown
Generation Length (years): 30
Movement patterns: Full Migrant
Congregatory: Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): As this species generally forages over oceanic waters it is less likely to encounter longline fisheries targeting Patagonian toothfish in shelf areas, although mortality of breeding birds is still recorded in these fisheries (ACAP 2009). In Australian waters, up to c.400 individuals (>80% juvenile) were killed annually in 1989-1995 by Japanese longliners (Gales et al. 1998). In the Indian Ocean, illegal or unregulated fishing for Patagonian toothfish Dissostichus eleginoides killed an estimated 10,000-20,000 albatrosses (mainly this species) in 1997 and 1998 (CCAMLR 1997, CCAMLR 1998). At Campbell, the long-term decline, which began well before local longline fishery development, appears to be caused by environmental factors, possibly rising sea-surface temperatures resulting in food shortages, but longline fisheries beyond the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) may also contribute (Waugh et al. 1999). The species is not caught on fishing vessels monitored by New Zealand observers within the EEZ (G. Taylor in litt. 2008). Outside of EEZs, due to its circumpolar distribution, T. chrysostoma is potentially vulnerable to Southern Ocean pelagic fisheries worldwide. The extensive use of the Subtropical Convergence and Sub-Antarctic Zones by incubating birds from Marion Island, especially females, bring them into contact with intense southern bluefin tuna Thunnus maccoyii longline fishing activity in international waters (40-45°) (ACAP 2009).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II and ACAP Annex 1. Population monitoring and foraging studies are being undertaken at South Georgia, Diego Ramirez, Marion, Macquarie and Campbell Islands. Macquarie and Campbell are World Heritage Sites and the Prince Edward Islands are a Special Nature Reserve.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue existing monitoring and commence at poorly-known sites (Environment Australia 1999). Determine migration patterns in off seasons from other populations and overlap with fisheries, particularly those operating in the southern Indian Ocean. Promote adoption of best-practice mitigation measures in all fisheries within the species's range, particularly via intergovernmental mechanisms such as ACAP, CCAMLR and FAO.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2013. Thalassarche chrysostoma. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T22698398A49369709. . Downloaded on 29 November 2015.
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