Eric J Larsen, PhD* - University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point
Over 35,000 Southern royal albatrosses (Diomedea epomophora) were leg banded on New Zealand's Campbell Island between the 1940s and 1990s. While having a large number of banded birds provides a valuable resource with which to study albatrosses, the banding had an unfortunate side effect, with an unacceptable number of birds being injured by their bands. To remedy this, it was decided that bands would be removed from most birds on the island. Over the period 2004 to 2008, the island was searched annually for royal albatrosses. Any bands found were removed and injuries were treated. During these searches, 2882 banded birds were found. Of these, 72 (2.5%) had major injuries, 8.5% had minor injuries and 12% had open bands (= 3 mm) with the potential to cause future injuries. At currently monitored study areas, the aim was to replace bands, and new 1.25-mm-thick stainless steel bands were trialled. These "R" bands were found to be reliable for use on females when closed with an improved technique, but larger and springier "RA" bands were rejected for males because a portion of the bands opened > 3 mm and one re-banded bird was injured. Male albatrosses were subsequently implanted with transponders to retain their marking history. The search for bands provided an opportunity for a census, with an estimated 8300-8700 breeding pairs at the beginning of the 2004-08 breeding seasons, representing population stability on Campbell Island since the last census in 1995.