A camera reveals feeding interaction between albatross and killer whale

Scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR), Tokyo, and Hokkaido University , Japan, have recorded the first observations of how albatrosses feed alongside marine mammals at sea.

A miniature digital camera (the size of a large lipstick) was attached to the backs of four black-browed albatrosses (Thalassarche melanophrys) breeding at colonies on Bird Island, South Georgia in the Southern Ocean. Taking a picture every 30 seconds, it also recorded environmental data.

The amazing pictures reveal albatrosses foraging in groups while at sea collecting food for their chicks. It also provides the first observation of an albatross feeding with a killer whale – a strategy they may adopt for efficiency.

Dr Richard Phillips from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) says, “These images are really interesting. They show us that albatrosses associate with marine mammals in the same way as tropical seabirds often do with tuna. In both cases the prey (usually fish) are directed to the surface and then it’s easy hunting for the birds."

"We hope to develop a camera lens unit that can be attached on the head of albatrosses in the future. But this is an important first step," Prof Takahashi (NIPR) says.