Trends and tactics of mouse predation on Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena chicks at Gough Island, South Atlantic Ocean

Delia Davies, Ben J. Dilley, Alexander L. Bond, Richard J. Cuthbert, Peter G. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The critically endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena breeds almost exclusively on Gough Island, in the central South Atlantic, where breeding success is much lower than other great albatrosses (Diomedea spp.) worldwide. Most breeding failures occur during the chick-rearing stage, when other great albatrosses suffer few failures. This unusual pattern of breeding failure is assumed to be largely due to predation by introduced house mice Mus musculus, but there have been few direct observations of mouse attacks. We closely monitored the fates of 20 chicks in the Gonydale study colony (123 chicks in 2014) using motion-activated cameras to determine the causes of chick mortality. Only 5 of 20 chicks survived to fledge, and of the 15 failures, 14 (93%) were due to mouse predation. One mouse-wounded chick was killed by a Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus; the rest died outright from their wounds within 3.9 ± 1.2 days of the first attack. Despite this high impact, most chicks were attacked by only 1-2 mice at once (maximum 9). The remaining 103 chicks in the study colony were checked less frequently, but the timing of failures was broadly similar to the 20 closely monitored nests, and the presence of mouse wounds on other chicks strongly suggests that mice were responsible for most chick deaths. Breeding success in the Gonydale study colony averages 28% from 2001 to 2014; far lower than the normal range of breeding success of Diomedea species occurring on islands free from introduced predators. Island-wide breeding success fell below 10% for the first time in 2014, making it even more urgent to eradicate mice from Gough Island.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalAvian Conservation and Ecology
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

    Fingerprint

Cite this