First evidence of mouse attacks on adult albatrosses and petrels breeding on sub-Antarctic Marion and Gough Islands

Abstract

Invasive house mice Mus musculus are significant predators of seabird chicks on islands where they are the only introduced mammal, but there are very few records of attacks on adult birds. We report the first evidence of mouse attacks on adult albatrosses and petrels breeding on Marion and Gough Islands, where there has been a recent increase in attacks on seabird chicks. In September 2017, wounds consistent with a mouse attack were recorded on an incubating adult male Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli on Marion Island. The nest was deserted, and breeding success within 500 m was 18% (n = 11) compared to 68% at nests > 500 m away (n = 123), suggesting that other incubating adults in the immediate vicinity also might have been affected. In March 2018, an incubating Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena was found on Gough Island with a typical mouse wound on its rump. The egg hatched and the same bird was later seen brooding and feeding the chick. In October 2018, an incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos was found on Gough Island with a wound on its back suggestive of a mouse attack and 23 freshly dead carcasses of this species were found, next to empty nests, in nearby colonies. These observations add to mounting evidence of the impacts of mice on seabirds, and further support calls to eradicate mice from Marion and Gough Islands

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Acknowledgements

We thank the numerous field assistants who conducted monitoring over the years, recently in particular to Christiaan Brink, Thando Cebekhulu, Ben Dilley, Delia Davies, David Green, Kate Lawrence, Fabrice Le Bouard, Alexis Osborne, Paige Potter, Stefan Schoombie, Janine Schoombie and Kim Stevens. Logistical and financial support was provided by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, through the South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP), the National Research Foundation, the University of Cape Town and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Long-term monitoring on Gough Island was established with a grant from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office with further support over the years from the UK Government’s Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP) and Darwin Initiative programme, the RSPB and the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. The Tristan da Cunha Administrator, Island Council and Conservation Department provided permission to work at Gough Island; the Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa, provided permission, to work on Marion Island.

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Correspondence to Christopher W. Jones.

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Field procedures and animal manipulations were approved by the Animal Ethics Committee of the RSPB and University of Cape Town.

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Jones, C.W., Risi, M.M., Cleeland, J. et al. First evidence of mouse attacks on adult albatrosses and petrels breeding on sub-Antarctic Marion and Gough Islands. Polar Biol 42, 619–623 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-018-02444-6

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Keywords

  • Mus musculus
  • Eradication
  • Adult predation
  • Macronectes halli
  • Diomedea dabbenena
  • Thalassarche chlororhynchos