Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Colorado
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Colorado Project

Demography of Black-footed and Laysan Albatross: Vital Rates in Support of the Surrogate Species Approach to Strategic Habitat Conservation

July 2015 - July 2020


Participating Agencies


The black-footed (BFAL) and Laysan (LAAL) albatrosses are long-lived seabirds of conservation concern to the USFWS. Specifically, a petition to list the BFAL under the Endangered Species Act has recently been submitted to USFWS. Furthermore, over 65% of the world population of these albatross species nest on remote island refuges in the Pacific. Although Southern Hemisphere albatross species are well-studied, through intensive research projects conducted by multiple countries, relatively little is known about the life history, survival, breeding frequency, and reproductive success of Northern Hemisphere albatross species. Such information is important, given the variety of threats that these species face (e.g., fishery bycatch, plastics ingestions, contaminants, loss of breeding habitat due to sea level rise). A banding/recapture program to monitor the vital rates of these species, under protocols developed by the Principal Investigator and collaborators, was initiated by USFWS on Midway Atoll and Tern Island in 2004, and on Laysan Island in 2005, thus encompassing the vast majority of each of these species. Designing, developing, and maintaining this monitoring program of these globally significant populations has been an ongoing collaboration among the USGS (Patuxent Wildlife Research Center before 2010 and the Colorado Cooperative and Wildlife Research Unit since), the USGS Bird Banding Lab, the USFWS Pacific and Remote Refuges, and the USFWS Region 1 Division of Migratory Birds and Habitat Programs. The main purpose of this project is to, based on the first 10 years of this data collection, (1) to assess the life history and demographic parameters (survival, recruitment probabilities, breeding probabilities, reproductive success, variability in these metrics across populations) of these Northern Hemisphere species. The parameter estimates and variability from this effort can be incorporated into a stage-based population model, to inform status assessment and provide predictions for candidate conservation actions. (2) Review whether the level of sampling effort recommended in the monitoring protocols has produced inferences with sufficient precision for management purposes (i.e., whether effort should be increased, or could be reduced).