WatchList Species Account for Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus)

Qualifies for the list as a Hawaii and Continental Red List Species


Photo: USFWS
Photo: USFWS

Once thought extinct, the Short-tailed Albatross has only two breeding sites, on Tori-shima and the Senkaku Islands, Japan. It historically bred on other Japanese islands in addition to islands off Taiwan, and was once abundant and widespread in the northern Pacific.


The Short-tailed Albatross was nearly brought to extinction by Japanese plume hunters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; it had declined to about ten pairs by 1953, but has increased slowly since then thanks to conservation efforts. The current population is estimated at 1,200 individuals, most of these birds breed on Torishima, a volcanic island, on open, level areas near tall clumps of grass.


Outside the breeding season it ranges along the coasts of eastern Russia, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands and rarely off the Pacific Coast of North America.


The bird is quite vulnerable because the majority of its numbers breed at a single site, and any natural disaster there or introduction of rats or other predators would have a devastating effect on its populations. Other key threats include mortality associated with fisheries, particularly longlines.