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The short-tailed albatross was once a common bird in the Pacific Ocean, with nesting colonies throughout the area. The population was reduced big-time during the early 1900s by feather hunters, who killed adults on the nesting areas to harvest their beautiful feathers for many purposes, including to decorate ladies' hats. The species was thought to be extinct until a small population was found on the volcanic island Torishima, owned by Japan. The Japanese government has protected the small population since its discovery, and the efforts of the scientist Hiroshi Hasegawa in particular have been important in the slow but steady increase in its size.

Short-tailed albatross adult (top; photo H. Hasegawa)
and juvenile (bottom)


Torishima Island, located in the Eastern North Pacific
(Photo: H. Hasegawa)

Short-tailed albatrosses feed at sea, like all albatrosses do. Sometimes they get close to fishing boats and can get hooked accidentally when they attack the baits on hooks. Even one death of a short-tailed albatross is a big deal, because they are protected by the Endangered Species Act of the United States. Fishing boats in the North Pacific are the ones that most often see short-tailed albatrosses, and some of those boats take several precautions to avoid hooking the birds. In Alaska, the fishing industry, government agencies, and universities are working together to make it safer for short-tailed albatrosses and other seabirds to be around fishing boats.  However, because they travel thousands of miles to so many different places, there is still a lot of work to be done to make the oceans safe for these birds! 


Sparkly streamers called Tori lines scare seabirds and keep them away
from baited hooks behind fishing boats
. (A fathom is six feet.)
(Image credit: WA Sea Grant)


Tori lines behind a fishing boat with birds following at a distance. These
streamers are currently in use by the Alaskan longline fleet.

 

To know where short-tailed albatrosses go when they leave their breeding island, a research group began using satellite tracking in 2002 to follow adults at sea. The group included scientists from the Yamashina Institute in Japan, the Fish and Wildlife Service in the USA, and Oregon State University. The group went to Torishima Island, where the adults can be found at their nests, and attached small satellite transmitters to feathers on their backs. Then came tracking using the Argos satellites. Here is what they found: the first information showing where short-tailed albatrosses go for food when they leave Torishima Island.

Locations of 21 Short-tailed Albatrosses satellite tracked between 2002 and 2006

.

These scientists are also tracking Laysan and black-footed albatrosses, providing additional information collected after the years of tracking that you can find in other parts of this website. This means that they are following all three species that live in the North Pacific Ocean.

To see more detailed descriptions of their work, including day-by-day tracks of individual birds:

click here for tracking of Laysan, black-footed, and short-tailed albatrosses in the north Pacific

click here for tracking of short-tailed albatrosses based at their breeding colony near Japan

 

To see some beautiful photos by the Japanese scientist Hiroshi Hasegawa, click here, and here, and here.