Conservation efforts to improve breeding habitat on Torishima have been very beneficial in allowing more chicks to survive to leave the colony. Albatrosses, however, spend most of their lives at sea. It is critical, therefore, to also determine in what regions of the ocean these birds travel, especially when feeding. This allows scientists to further understand how short-tailed albatross reproductive success and survival might also be affected by conditions away from the breeding colony. Using small satellite transmitters attached to albatrosses, scientists are able to track the movements of these birds as they fly long distances over the ocean. The satellite transmitters are small radios that are temporarily attached to the feathers on the bird's back. The Argos satellite system locates the transmitters several times each day and reports the locations to a ground station. The transmitters weigh only about 1% of the bird's body weight.
All previous satellite tracking studies of Short-tailed Albatrosses occurred during post-breeding season migrations – when birds were away from their breeding colony. In February 2006, a joint Japan-U.S.A. research team conducted the first satellite tracking study of Short-tailed Albatross during the breeding season. Eight albatrosses with young chicks were captured individually at their nests and satellite transmitters were attached to the feathers on their backs. Our biggest concern in planning this work was the potential disturbance to a breeding colony of this endangered species. Fortunately, all the safeguards to limit disturbance were effective and the scientists successfully deployed eight transmitters without disrupting breeding efforts of these birds or their neighbors. Follow-up studies have been conducted in February of 2007 and 2008.
Below are tracks of each of the four birds carrying transmitters deployed by the U.S. members of the team in 2008. These maps are updated every Monday while the transmitters are still active. For additional information on this project or the data on this page, contact Robert Suryan (rob.suryan at oregonstate.edu), Greg Balogh (Greg_Balogh at fws.gov), or Paul Sievert (psievert at forwild.umass.edu). Our collaborators in Japan are the Ministry of Environment and the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology.
Below you see first a summary of all satellite locations accumulated for these birds, and then detailed information for each bird. You can see similar information for birds tracked in 2006 and 2007.
Short-tailed albatross colony
(Photo: G. Balogh)