For the first time on record a Critically Endangered Tristan albatross adult has been eaten alive by invasive non-native house mice. About a third of Tristan albatross chicks are eaten by the introduced mice each year on Gough Island, a UK Overseas Territory island and World Heritage Site in the South Atlantic 2,600km away from the nearest land mass of South Africa. Only two to three pairs of Tristan albatross breed anywhere else on Earth. The mouse predation, and the threat of unsafe fishing practices, has placed them in danger of extinction.
This adult was on Gough Island, Tristan albatrosses’ main breeding ground and one of the most remote islands in the world, raising a chick with her mate. She was one of the most experienced mothers on the island and the father must now struggle to feed the chick alone - leaving it at risk not only of starvation but also at greater risk of being eaten by the mice.
Kim Stevens, RSPB Senior Field Assistant, said: “To see a parent killed in this way, and her chick in such danger, is devastating. Albatrosses are stunning, long-lived birds that spend much of their lives soaring over the oceans, and they need safe places to feed and raise their young. This albatross was ringed when she herself was a chick back in 1986 so we have lost one of our oldest known, most experienced mothers.”
The death of each breeding Tristan albatross is a devastating loss because they don’t start breeding until they’re about ten years old. It then takes two parents about a year to raise one chick. With only one parent providing food it might take the chick months longer to fledge and is likely to leave it in a weaker state, multiplying the threat from the mice and making it less likely to survive at sea.