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Amsterdam Albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis
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This species qualifies as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small population, confined to a tiny area on one island. Although numbers have recently been increasing, a continuing decline is projected owing to the impact of a disease which is probably already causing chick mortality.

Taxonomic source(s)
Brooke, M. de L. 2004. Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
Robertson, C. J. R.; Nunn, G. B. 1998. Towards a new taxonomy for albatrosses. In: Robertson, G.; Gales, R. (ed.), Albatross biology and conservation, pp. 13-19. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton, Australia.

110 cm. Huge albatross with brownish breeding plumage. Juvenile very similar to juvenile Wandering Albatross D. exulans. Adult has almost entirely chocolate-brown upperparts. White face mask and throat. Broad brown breast-band. White lower breast and belly with brown undertail-coverts. White underwing with dark tip. Similar spp. Dark leading edge to underwing possibly broader than in D. exulans. Dark tip and cutting edges to pink bill characteristic, and best identification feature if visible, compared to, for example, Antipodean Albatross D. antipodensis, which lacks dark marks on bill.

Distribution and population
The species breeds on the Plateau des Tourbières on Amsterdam Island (French Southern Territories) in the southern Indian Ocean. It has a total population of c. 170 birds including 80 mature individuals, with c. 26 pairs breeding annually, showing an increase since 1984, when the first census was carried out (Weimerskirch et al. 1997, Inchausti and Weimerskirch 2001, H. Weimerskirch in litt. 2005, 2010, Rains et al. 2011). The population was probably formerly larger when its range was more extensive over the slopes of the island (Weimerskirch et al. 1997). Satellite tracking has shown that adult birds range from the coast of eastern South Africa to the south of western Australia in non-breeding years (Hirschfeld 2008), and possible sightings have been reported from Australia (Environment Australia 1999) and New Zealand (Carboneras 1992b). In July 2013 a bird photographed off the Western Cape represents the first confirmed sight record for South Africa (Cooper 2013).

Population justification
The population was estimated at c. 170 birds in total, including 80 mature individuals, with c. 26 pairs breeding annually by Rains et al. (2011). Between 2001 and 2007 there were c. 24-31 pairs breeding annually (Rivalan et al. 2010), so the population is now likely to be around 100 mature individuals for this biennially breeding species. The number of mature individuals was estimated to be fewer than 50 until 1998 (C. Barbraud in litt. 2013).

Trend justification
Although the population increased between 1983-2009 (ACAP unpubl. data, Inchausti and Weimerskirch 2001, Rivalan et al. 2010), it is believed to have suffered severe declines in the 1970s, and so, over three generations (c. 82 years), has almost certainly declined overall.

Behaviour Breeding is biennial (when successful) and is restricted to the central plateau of the island at 500-600 m, where only one breeding group is known. The plateau is composed of saturated peat with typical plant communities including mosses, liverworts, ferns and grasses (ACAP 2013). Pair-bonds are lifelong, and breeding begins in February (Hirschfeld 2008). Most eggs are laid from late February to March, and chicks fledge in January-February the following year (ACAP 2009). Immature birds begin to return to breeding colonies between four and seven years after fledging but do not begin to breed until they are nine years of age (ACAP 2009). Diet Its exact diet is unknown, but probably consists of fish, squid and crustaceans (Jouventin et al. 1989, Jouventin 1994b). Foraging range During the breeding season, birds forage both around Amsterdam Island and up to 2,200 km away in subtropical waters (H. Weimerskirch unpublished data)

Degradation of breeding sites by introduced cattle has decreased the species's range and population across the island (Inchausti and Weimerskirch 2001). Human disturbance is presumably also to blame (Jouventin 1994b). Introduced predators are a major threat, particularly feral cats (Inchausti and Weimerskirch 2001). During the 2011 breeding season rats, cats and mice were all present in the sole breeding colony, although no evidence of predation was recorded (Thiebot et al. 2014). Interactions with longline fisheries around the island in the 1970s and early 1980s could also have contributed to a decline in the population (Inchausti and Weimerskirch 2001). Today the population is threatened primarily by the potential spread of diseases (avian cholera and Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae) that affect the Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche carteri population 3 km from the colony (Weimerskirch 2004). Infection risks are very high and increased chick mortality over recent years suggests the population is already affected (Weimerskirch submitted). Introduced mammals could potentially facilitate the spread of disease (Thiebot et al. 2014). The foraging range of the species overlaps with longline fishing operations targeting tropical tuna species, so bycatch may also still be a threat (ACAP 2009), and a recent analysis has suggested that bycatch levels exceeding six individuals per year would be enough to cause a potentially irreversible population decline (Rivalan et al. 2010). Having a distribution on relatively low-lying islands, this species is potentially susceptible to climate change through sea-level rise and shifts in suitable climatic conditions (BirdLife International unpublished data).

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
ACAP Annex 1. All birds are banded and the population is censused and monitored every year (Micol and Jouventin 1995), and some birds have been fitted with satellite transmitters. In 1987 the number of cattle was reduced and a fence erected to seal off part of the island, then in 1992 a second fence was erected with the aim of providing complete protection for the high plateau from possible incursions by cattle (Micol and Jouventin 1995). Cattle eradication began in 2009 and was completed in 2011. Following this, fences were removed and Phylica trees were replanted (T. Micol in litt. 2012). LPO has developed a schedule of activities required for an eradication scheme of mice, cats and rats from Amsterdam Island (BirdLife International 2012). A resolution in June 2008 from the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission requiring long-line vessels to use preventative measures to avoid by-catch of seabirds may be important for this species (Hirschfeld 2008). Blood sampling has been carried out to determine the presence of disease (T. Micol in litt. 2012). Strict measures are now in place to prevent biologists facilitating the spread of disease from the nearby Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross colony (T. Micol in litt. 2012). A national plan of action for the species covering the period 2011-2015 was published in 2011 (Delord et al. 2011).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Prevent the spread of disease. Continue detailed monitoring of the population. Promote adoption of best-practice mitigation measures in all fisheries within the species's range, particularly via intergovernmental mechanisms such as ACAP, FAO and appropriate Regional Fisheries Management Organisations. Increase awareness of the species by making the National Action Plan available to fishermen, scientists, conservation organisations and other relevant parties (ACAP 2013). Submit an eradication plan for rats, cats and mice to the TAAF (Terres australes et antarctiques françaises) administration (T. Micol in litt. 2012).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

ACAP. 2009. ACAP Species Assessment: Amsterdam Albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis. Available at: #

ACAP. 2013. Taking action for the Amsterdam albatross - A synopsis of the national plan of actions for 2011-2015. Available at: (Accessed: 04/06/2015).

BirdLife International. 2012. 2012 Report to Vogelbescherming Nederland - BirdLife Species Champion for the Amsterdam Albatross. BirdLife International Preventing Extinctions.

Carboneras, C. 1992. Diomedeidae (Albatrosses). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (ed.), Handbook of the birds of the world, pp. 198-215. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Cooper, J. 2013. A Critically Endangered Amsterdam Albatross gets photographed in South African waters for the first time. Available at: (Accessed: 24/09/2013).

Delord, K.; Micol, T.; Marteau, C.; Thiebot, J. B. (compilers). 2011. National Plan of Actions for the Amsterdam albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis 2011 - 2015. Ministère de l' écologie, du Développement durable et de l' énergie.

Environment Australia. 1999. Draft recovery plan for albatrosses and giant petrels.

Hirschfeld, E. 2008. Rare Birds Yearbook 2009: the world's 190 most threatened birds. MagDig Media Ltd., Shrewsbury, UK.

Inchausti, P.; Weimerskirch, H. 2001. Risks of decline and extinction of the endangered Amsterdam Albatross and the projected impact of long-line fisheries. Biological Conservation 100: 377-386.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Jouventin, P. 1994. Past, present and future of Amsterdam Island, Indian Ocean. In: Nettleship, D.N.; Burger, J.; Gochfeld, M. (ed.), Seabirds on islands: threats, case studies and action plans, pp. 122-132. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

Jouventin, P.; Martinez, J.; Roux, J. -P. 1989. Breeding biology and current status of the Amsterdam Island Albatross. Ibis 131: 171-189.

Micol, T.; Jouventin, P. 1995. Restoration of Amsterdam island, South Indian Ocean, following control of feral cattle. Biological Conservation 73: 199-206.

Rains D., Weimerskirch H., Burg T.M. 2011. Piecing together the global population puzzle of wandering albatrosses: genetic analysis of the Amsterdam albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis. Journal of Avian Bioiogy. 42: 69-79.

Rivalan, P.; Barbraud, C.; Inchausti, P.; Weimerskirch, H. 2010. Combined impacts of longline fisheries and climate on the persistence of the Amsterdam Albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis. Ibis 152(1): 6-18.

Thiebot, J-B., Barbraud, C., Delord, K., Marteau, C. and Weimerskirch, H. 2014. Do Introduced Mammals Chronically Impact the Breeding Success of the World's Rarest Albatross? Ornithological Science 13(1): 41-46.

Weimerskirch, H. 2004. Diseases threaten Southern Ocean albatrosses. Polar Biology 27: 374-379.

Weimerskirch, H.; Brothers, N.; Jouventin, P. 1997. Population dynamics of Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans and Amsterdam Albatross D. amsterdamensis in the Indian Ocean and their relationships with long-line fisheries: conservation implications. Biological Conservation 79: 257-270.

Further web sources of information
Additional information is available on the distribution of the Amsterdam Albatross from the Global Procellariiform Tracking Database (

Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.

Australian Govt - Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 - Recovery Outline

Click here for more information about the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Anderson, O., Bird, J., Calvert, R., Nel, D., Pilgrim, J., Stattersfield, A., Sullivan, B., Symes, A., Small, C. & Ashpole, J

Cooper, J., Croxall, J., Weimerskirsch, H., Barbraud, C., Misiak, W. & Micol, T.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Diomedea amsterdamensis. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Amsterdam albatross (Diomedea amsterdamensis) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Critically Endangered
Family Diomedeidae (Albatrosses)
Species name author Roux et al. 1983
Population size 100 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) -
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species