Demand Immediate Action Protecting the Short Tailed Albatross

  • by: Rick Hunt
  • recipient: Gavin Newsom Governor

Range and habitat

A chick just before it left the Hawaiian archipelago
Short-tailed albatrosses now nest on four islands, with the majority of birds nesting on Torishima, and almost all of the rest on Minami-kojima in the Senkaku Islands. A female-female pair began nesting on Kure in the late 2000s, but to date they have not produced a viable egg. A chick hatched on 14 January 2011 on Midway. Both Midway and Kure are in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.[13] In 2012 a pair began incubating an egg on Muko-jima, in the Bonin Islands, Japan.[14] During non-breeding season they range across the North Pacific, with the males and juveniles gathering in the Bering Sea, and the females feeding off the coast of Japan and eastern Russia.[10] They can also be found as far east as California. In fact, the short-tailed albatross is seen on a number of the United States' state endangered species lists including Washington.[15]

The species has been extirpated as a breeder from Kita-no-shima, Enewetak Atoll, Kobishi, and the Bonin Islands (Nishino Shima, Yomejima, and (until recently) Mukojima).[3] It also formerly bred on Bermuda during the Pleistocene.[16
Breeding population and trends[18]
Breeding location Population Trend
Tori-shima (Izu Islands) 3540 up from 25 since 1954
Minami-kojima and Kita-kojima 650 Unknown
Ogasawara Islands 10 Unknown
Total 4200

One of several chicks translocated to Muko-jima Island, Japan
The IUCN classifies this species as vulnerable,[1] with an occurrence range of 34,800,000 km2 (13,400,000 sq mi) and a breeding range of 9 km2 (3.5 sq mi).

The short-tailed albatross came perilously close to extinction. They were hunted on an almost industrial scale for their feathers in the later half of the 19th century, with some estimates claiming upward of 10 million birds hunted. By the 1930s the only population left was on Torishima, between 1927 and until 1933 hunting continued when the Japanese government declared the ban of hunting to save the species, after which the albatrosses stopped breeding on the island. At this point the species was assumed to be extinct and research became impossible with the outbreak of World War II. On 1949 an American researcher arriving on this island declared the species to be extinct, but an estimated 50 individuals, most likely juveniles, survived at sea (all albatross species take a long time to reach sexual maturity and will not return to their natal colony for many years). After the return of the birds they were more carefully protected, and the first egg was laid by the returning birds in 1954. Varieties of albatross decoys were placed around on the island after it was discovered that like other albatross species, this species also were enticed to breed if placed in a group

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