December 29, 2008

Albatross endangered by predatory mice

The critically endangered Tristan Albatross suffered its worst breeding season ever and is threatened by predatory mice, British researchers report.

The number of chicks surviving until they are fledglings now is one-fifth what it should be because the mice -- which were introduced into the birds' habitat -- are eating the chicks on Gough Island, a south Atlantic British territory that is the birds' only home, ScienceDaily reported.

We've known for a long time that the mice were killing albatross chicks in huge numbers. However, we now know that the albatrosses have suffered their worst year on record, said Richard Cuthbert, a scientist with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds who has been researching the mice problem on Gough Island since 2000. We also know that the mice are predators on the eggs and chicks of the Gough bunting and mice predation is the main factor behind their recent decline.

The preservation organization has been involved in a feasibility study to test whether it's possible to get rid of the mice, ScienceDaily reported.