June 2019
This is the final report for POP2017-04: Seabird population research, Auckland Islands 2018-19


This report details the mark-recapture methods and findings for white-chinned petrels, Gibson’s albatrosses and white-capped albatrosses. For Gibson’s albatross, we present data on the size of the nesting population in 2019, and updated estimates of survival, productivity and recruitment to help identify causes of current population size and trends. We also document tracking methods and device recoveries for all three species, and for white-capped albatrosses, describe nest camera recoveries and aerial photographic work.

White-chinned petrels. Three global location sensor (GLS) tracking devices were recovered and forty-seven banded white-chinned petrels were recaptured (recapture rate 0.27). Some burrow-switching has occurred, with three banded birds in new burrows ~2–5m from the burrow where first banded, justifying checks in unmarked burrows. With further banding this season, the study area now contains 230 banded white-chinned petrels in 131 marked burrows.

Gibson’s albatross. Nesting success has returned to levels recorded before the 2005 crash and appears to have stabilised, with 61% productivity in the 2017–2018 breeding season. The survival rate of adult males and females is now similar though survival remains below pre-crash levels. Breeding numbers in 2018–2019 continued the slow post-crash increase. The total estimated number of breeding pairs of Gibson’s wandering albatrosses in 2018–19 was 4,180, just under half the number of pairs breeding in 2004 (i.e., 8,728) before the population crashed. 

White-capped albatross. Banded white-capped albatrosses were resighted at a rate of 0.34, and a further 122 breeding white-capped albatrosses were banded bringing the study colony total to 679 birds banded. Nest cameras gave up to 9½ months of data from deployment in January 2018. Chick success, or the survival of a chick from hatching to fledging, was lower than expected at 0.29 (5 out of 17 nests). Chicks fledged ~27 July (range 12 July–23 August), and adults returned to the colony from around 30 September. Low chick success is a concern since breeding success (survival from egg lay to fledging) will be lower than chick success.

Publication information

Rexer-Huber K., Elliott G., Thompson D., Walker K., Parker G.C. 2019. Seabird populations, demography and tracking: Gibson’s albatross, white-capped albatross and white-chinned petrels in the Auckland Islands 2018–19. Final report to the Conservation Services Programme, Department of Conservation. Parker Conservation, Dunedin. 19 p.


Conservation Services Programme
Department of Conservation
PO Box 10-420
Wellington 6143


Back to top