Blog by Kate Lawrence, Field Assistant International Species Recovery Unit

1446 Tristan Albatross breeding pairs on Gough Island

Last week we completed the challenging and enjoyable task of a whole-island count of Tristan Albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) nests. This is a task undertaken annually by the field assistants on Gough Island. After five days of searching for nests in all suitable habitat, our count came to 1446.

This critically endangered species is endemic to the Tristan island group; however its extinction on Tristan Island by 1900 and negligible numbers on Inaccessible Island means that Gough Island represents the vast majority of the population.

 Tristan Albatross are a long-lived species and they breed biennially. Eggs are laid in January and incubated for over two months, hatching in March. It then takes around eight months of steadfast parenting for the chicks to fully develop before most of them fledge around November-December. The critically endangered status of this species is a result of low breeding success due to predation of chicks by invasive mice, and low adult survival caused by long-line fishing mortalities. Together these threats are causing long-term population decline. Our next round-island count of chicks will be in September; only then will we have an idea of the breeding success for this season.

Photo courtesy of Kate LawrenceA foggy walk to Waterfall Camp meant we could take advantage of the following clear weather days

Photo courtesy of Jaimie Cleeland, Kate gets ready to look for nests in GP valley

Photo courtesy of Kate LawrenceNon-breeding Tristan Albatrosses above the West Point area

Photo courtesy of Kate LawrenceThe view from False Peak - a lot of ground to cover. Edinburgh Peak, Gough Island’s highest point, is on the left.

Photo courtesy of Kate Lawrence, Jaimie gets ready for dinner at Waterfall Camp

Photo courtesy of Kate Lawrence, The breeding habitat of Tarn Moss gives way to rugged valleys below

Photo courtesy of Kate LawrenceCamp Glen was just one of many spectacular views along the way

Photo courtesy of Jaimie CleelandKate and Fabrice get ready to count a section of Albatross Plain

Photo courtesy of Kate LawrenceCourting Tristan Albatrosses in January

Photo courtesy of Kate Lawrence, Jaimie at one of our regularly monitored nests in Gonydale


The Gough Island Restoration Programme is being carried out by the RSPB in partnership with Tristan da CunhaBirdLife South Africa and the Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa.

The programme is part-funded by the RSPB, the UK government, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and other generous individuals and organisations.

If you would like to support our efforts to save the Critically Endangered Tristan albatross and Gough bunting, please contact John Kelly, or you can donate using our online form