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Return of the Short-Tailed Albatross

By Paromita Pain - 20 Dec 2010 8:9:2 GMT
Return of the Short-Tailed Albatross

Ornithologists estimate that only about 3000 Short-Tailed Albatross exist in the world. This large but rare sea bird, related to the North Pacific albatrosses, is endangered. They can have wingspans that can reach 13 feet and weigh up to 25 pounds. But recent sightings may offer hope that this bird might be making a dramatic recovery in numbers. The Seabird Program at the American Bird Conservancy,a conservation organization, has released a report that says the birds have been found on the Kure Atoll and on Midway Atoll, in the Hawaiian Islands. The last known breeding grounds of these creatures were the Japanese island of Torishima. Researchers were worried over this choice of place since it's vulnerable to volcanoes which would have wiped the entire species out. Hunted for its feathers to be used in hats and other decorative purposes, they were nearly made extinct thanks to indiscriminate killing during the later half of the 19th century. In 1939 a volcanic eruption destroyed some breeding grounds in Torishima and this destruction saw breeding pair numbers fall to as low as 10.

Not all good news

But scientists aren't celebrating the find just yet. Hawaii has seen nearly 71 bird species go extinct since humans started their colonies there. The  American Bird Conservancy says 33 species are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act. 10 of these 33 haven't been seen in 40 years and their status is unknown. They might well be extinct.  Such conditions make Hawaii is the global epicenter for imminent extinctions.

The protection of the remaining native birds, including the diverse group of honeycreepers, is the highest bird conservation priority in the United States and a long-term commitment for American Bird Conservancy. Short-Tailed Albatrosses feed on squid and also follow ships for discarded matter.  Japan, Canada and the USA have already measures in place to protect this bird. Non-native species often cause the greatest harm to native flora and fauna. The mosquito on the Hawai'I Islands is an example. It was responsible for the spread of avian malaria and avian pox which have caused multiple avian extinctions.