Above Picture: Early evidence. A ‘scalped’ Sooty Albatross chick on Marion Island, photograph by Stefan Schoombie
This post continues an occasional series that features the several scientific papers that give information on attacks by House Mice on the birds of Marion Island. For the first post in the series click here.
Genevieve Jones and Peter Ryan (FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, South Africa) published in 2010 in the journal Antarctic Science on attacks by Marion Island’s introduced House Mice on albatross chicks, first observed in 2003, approaching two decades ago.
The paper’s abstract follows:
“Introduced house mice Mus musculus have recently been discovered to be significant predators of chicks of Tristan albatrosses Diomedea dabbenena and several burrowing petrels at Gough Island. We summarize evidence for mouse attacks on albatross chicks at sub-Antarctic Marion Island, where mice are also the only introduced mammal following the eradication of feral cats Felis catus in the early 1990s. Wounds consistent with mouse attacks have been found on wandering albatrosses Diomedea exulans since 2003 and dark-mantled sooty albatrosses Phoebetria fusca in 2009. To date, attacks on wandering albatross chicks have been infrequent, affecting <1% of chicks in study colonies, and only about half of the attacks have been fatal. Small chicks may also die when mouse burrows collapse under chicks, trapping them. Mouse attacks appear to be a recent phenomenon, supporting the contention that mice pose a significant threat when they are the only introduced mammal species. Ongoing monitoring is needed to assess whether the impacts of mice increase over time. Our observations add impetus to calls for the eradication of mice from Marion Island.”
Jones, M.G.W. & Ryan, P.G. 2009. Evidence of mouse attacks on albatross chicks on sub-Antarctic Marion Island. Antarctic Science 22l: 39-42
John Cooper, Member, Scientific and Technical Advisory Group, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 16 September 2021