March 2009
This report summarises work undertaken during the 2007-08 breeding season as part of the population and distributional study on white-capped albatross (Auckland Islands).



South West Cape, main Auckland Island, was visited during November-December 2007 (incubation stage) by a three-person field team to continue studies into the demography and at-sea distribution of white-capped albatross.

A further 12 geolocation tags were retrieved from birds tagged as breeders in previous seasons, bringing the total retrieved to date to 13. Of these, one tag was corrupted and produced no usable data. Of the remaining 12 tags, 11 sets of data revealed that birds remained within Australasia year-round, mainly within New Zealand’s EEZ, and one tag
revealed a migration to waters off South Africa and Namibia in each of two successive

A total of 15 GPS tags were deployed on actively incubating birds. However, due to unpredicted and relatively long incubation shift lengths, most tags were subsequently removed before birds went to sea. One tag was successfully retrieved after a foraging trip and four further tags were retrieved after our departure from South West Cape. Of these five tags, one was corrupted and produced no usable data, but the remaining four tags produced high-resolution foraging trip information. These data revealed that birds foraged off the east coast of Australia, off eastern Tasmania and along the Chatham Rise, together with an area immediately to the south of the Auckland Islands.

Population studies continued with banding of additional breeding adults bringing the total of banded breeding birds within the study area to 93, and a total of 63 active and marked nests. Additionally, banding of potential recruits to the population within the study area continued, and breeding success was estimated from a follow-up visit to the colony in April 2008. A complete population estimate for the South West Cape area was attempted but some breeding areas could not be observed from land, and so this task was not completed. However, ground-truthing work was undertaken in support of another aerial survey of the entire Auckland Islands population.

Observations of breeding frequency, nest-site occupancy and inter-annual variation in population estimates suggest that whitecapped albatross is predominantly a biennially-breeding species.

Publication information

Published by the Department of Conservation

Report prepared for the Conservation Services Programme, Department of Conservation by: David Thompson, National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd., Private Bag 14901, Wellington, and Paul Sagar, National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd., PO Box 8602, Christchurch,


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


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