Constructing artificial nests for shy albatross

Albatross chicks
Two albatross touching beaks

The shy albatross is a threatened and endemic Tasmanian species, facing a variety of threats across their range. Their different life history stages make them particularly sensitive to the unprecedented changes in climate occurring in both their marine foraging habitats and the terrestrial breeding environments. For example, higher air temperatures during the chick-rearing period are associated with fewer eggs successfully producing chicks at the end of the breeding season, and their nests are susceptible to extreme rainfall events and wind.

Specially built mudbrick and aerated concrete artificial nests were airlifted on to Bass Strait’s Albatross Island in a trial program aimed at increasing the breeding success of the Tasmanian shy albatrosses to offset the impacts of climate change on this vulnerable species. In total, 123 artificial nests were made and installed on Albatross Island in July 2017. The albatross readily and immediately adopted their new nests, even personalizing them with mud and vegetation.

Follow-up monitoring throughout the breeding season confirmed high rates of uptake, with eggs laid in 90% of the artificial nests. By the end of the season, breeding success (that is, the proportion of eggs laid that produce chicks that survive to fledging) in the artificial nests was more than twice as high as in the naturally built nests in the study.