Artificial nests are having a positive impact on Tasmanian shy albatross populations

By AG Staff 9 October 2017
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The vulnerable Tasmanian shy albatross have accepted the 120 artificial nests planted on Albatross Island, which scientists hope will result in a record breeding season.

THROUGH THE construction of custom made mudbrick and carved aerated concrete nests, designed to mimic the nests of Tasmanian shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta), conservationsist have given the birds breeding season a much needed kickstarter. 

The team led by Tasmanian and Australian Governments, WWF Australia, CSIRO Marine Climate Impact and the Tasmanian Albatross Fund airlifted 120 of the artificial nests on to Bass Strait’s Albatross Island prior to the July 2017 breeding season.

 “This trial is based on the simple theory that if ready-made high-quality nests are put in areas where nests are typically of lower quality we increase the chances of albatross pairs successfully raising a chick,” said Rachael Alderman, a biologist at the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment Wildlife.

The results from the experiment, released this week, show that most of the articifical nests had been taken up by the vulnurable bird thanks to tactical timing. 

“Researchers positioned the artificial nests just as the birds were starting to stake out nest sites and begin construction,” said Darren Grover, WWF-Australia’s Head of Living Ecosystems. 

Rachel told Australian Geographic that while the results from early monitoring are positive, whether or not the nests have contributed to overall breeding success will have to wait until April 2018 when chicks are fully grown and ready to fly.

“At this stage the albatross have taken to the nests like they were their own and have laid their eggs — one each per nest. The team will follow them throughout the season and be able to measure the success of the nests in April 2018,” she said.

Conserving Tasmanian shy alabtross populations

The Australian Government recognises the Tasmanian shy albatross as vulnurable on a national scale but the bird is still relatively abundant. However, Rachel says that climate change will impact these populations in the future.

“Already some impacts are being seen with fewer chicks produced in years of higher temperatures or increased rainfall – also there is evidence of birds spending longer periods at time at sea obtaining food,” she said.

 “While some species can physically relocate to more favourable environments or adapt in other ways, the biology of albatross make them particularly vulnerable to rapid negative changes. Their low reproductive output and innate compulsion to return to the same colony each year, restricts their ability to move to more favourable environments.”