BirdLife: The Magazine Jan-Mar 2018 - Page 30

feature THE RED LIST A broken love story Antipodean Albatrosses court for years, mate for life and work together to raise young – but human activity is causing a sex ratio imbalance that is destroying their romance Jessica Law T he “live slow, die old” strategy has been working for the Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis for millennia. Breeding exclusively on a few New Zealand islands, this majestic bird mates for life, laying a single egg with each breeding attempt. Since it takes a whole year to hatch the egg and raise the chick, they are only able to reproduce once every two years. But they don’t even start thinking about breeding until they are at least seven years old – sometimes more like 20 – and even then, the process entails a long courtship involving song and dance routines, and spanning several years. 30 A quarrel on the ocean waves. Photo Sabine’s Sunbird 1 It sounds like a Jane Austen novel, but investing a lot of time and energy in safely raising a few healthy young is a strategy that has paid off – until now. This year, they have been uplisted to Endangered on the Red List, with recent surveys of Adams Island and the Antipodes Islands showing a steep decrease in population size and the number of nests found. The Antipodes Islands, which hold nearly half of the world’s Antipodean Albatrosses, are showing the biggest decline. Here, numbers have fallen by a staggering 12% a year in the past 13 years. And the overall population is estimated to have birdlife • Jan-Mar 2018