The Short-tailed is a medium-sized albatross, with a wingspan of seven to eight feet. The adult has a white head and body and a golden crown and nape. The large pink bill is distinctive.
Once abundant and widespread in the northern Pacific, the Short-tailed Albatross was nearly driven to extinction by Japanese plume hunters in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The species had declined to about ten pairs by 1953, but has rebounded due to conservation efforts, including protection of its main breeding areas on Torishima.
The species is listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act as Endangered, and remains vulnerable because Torishima is an active volcano; an eruption could have a devastating impact, as could the introduction of predators, especially rats. To guard against such disasters, conservationists have translocated birds from Torishima to Mukojima Island, also in Japan, to establish a second nesting colony there.
Bycatch mitigation measures have also helped reduce the threat to these and other albatrosses posed by longline fisheries.
Most recently, a pair of Short-tails has begun breeding on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, and several individuals have been sighted at other islands in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, providing hope that a colony will one day establish itself there. Read more about this in ABC's recent press release!