Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Variation in the bill colour of the white-capped mollymawk (Thalassarche cauta steadi)

TitleVariation in the bill colour of the white-capped mollymawk (Thalassarche cauta steadi)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsTennyson, AJD
JournalNotornis
Volume67
Issue1
Pagination333-340
Type of ArticleFull article
Keywordsalbatross, Auckland Islands, identification, subantarctic, Tasmanian mollymawk, White-capped Albatross
Abstract

The white-capped mollymawk (Thalassarche cauta steadi) and Tasmanian mollymawk (T. cauta cauta) have discreet breeding sites, but away from their breeding grounds, where their at-sea ranges overlap, they are difficult to identify. The bill colour of these taxa has recently been considered to differ, but there is much conflicting information in published accounts. Three key differences often discussed are the amount of yellow on the culminicorn, the amount of yellow on the cutting edge to the upper mandible, and the amount of darkness on the mandibular unguis. In January 2018 I assessed these characters in 100 adult white-capped mollymawks at their Disappointment Island breeding site and found that each character was variably present. The majority of white-capped mollymawks lacked a yellow base to their culminicorn and had a dark mark on their mandibular unguis. In contrast, it has been reported that the majority of adult Tasmanian mollymawks have yellow at the base of their culminicorn and lack a dark mark on their mandibular unguis. While these characters can be used as a guide to identify these taxa, a minority of individuals of each taxon show the ‘typical’ bill colours of the other taxon. The amount of yellow on the cutting edge to the upper mandible varied between individual white-capped mollymawks, and so this is not a useful identification character.

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