Species Profile and Threats Database

Listed Critical Habitat

The identification of critical habitat for the Register of Critical Habitat, including location and extent information, is a matter of ecological judgement, and is based on the most up-to-date scientific information available to the Threatened Species Scientific Committee and the Minister for the Environment at the time the habitat was being considered. As new or additional information becomes available, critical habitat identified on the Register may be amended.

Diomedea exulans (Wandering Albatross) - Macquarie Island

Listed Critical Habitat: Diomedea exulans (Wandering Albatross) - Macquarie Island
Date Effective: 01 Jul 2002
Location and extent: Macquarie Island: About 13,000 ha, comprising all islands and rocks above mean high water level, lying within the area bounded by parallels 54° 27' S and 54° 49' S latitude and meridians 158° 45' E and 158° 59' E longitude.
Reasons for listing: Criteria (a). Whether the habitat is used during periods of stress. Examples of period of stress: Flood, drought or fire.


Criteria (b). Whether the habitat is used to meet essential life cycle requirements. Examples: Foraging, breeding, nesting, roosting, social behaviour patterns or seed dispersal processes.

All albatrosses spend more than 95% of their time traversing the world's oceans in search of prey, and usually only return to land to breed. For southern hemisphere species, nesting typically occurs on small islands scattered throughout the Southern Ocean. Five species of albatross breed within Australian waters, three of which are listed as threatened under the EPBC Act:

  • Shy Albatross
  • Wandering Albatross
  • Grey-headed Albatross
There are four major breeding locations under Australian jurisdiction where these albatross species breed. These are:
  • Macquarie Island
  • Albatross Island
  • Pedra Branca, and
  • The Mewstone
These remote islands constitute the only suitable breeding habitat under Australian jurisdiction and should be regarded as habitat that is critical to the survival of the three albatross species in Australian waters.

Criteria (c). The extent to which the habitat is used by important populations. NB: An important population is one that is necessary for a species' long-term survival and recovery. This may include populations that are: key source populations either for breeding or dispersal, populations that are necessary for maintaining genetic diversity, and/or populations that are near the limit of the species range.

Because there are so few populations for these species in Australia, all populations are important.

Shy Albatrosses breed only within Australia, and hence the breeding habitats of this species (Albatross Island, Pedra Branca and The Mewstone) comprise its entire breeding range. Each of these populations appears to be genetically distinct.

Macquarie Island hosts the other two species of albatrosses. All of these populations are very small and are critical for maintaining the genetic diversity necessary to ensure the viability of these species. Although these populations are likely to be genetically distinct (based on data from other populations which have been studied), no data currently exist regarding the genetic distinctiveness of these populations.

Criteria (d). Whether the habitat is necessary to maintain genetic diversity and long-term evolutionary development.
If these island habitats were lost, it is unlikely that the species which use them would persist. Albatrosses are extremely site-faithful and the populations currently breeding on these islands are unlikely to breed elsewhere.

Criteria (e). Whether the habitat is necessary for use as corridors to allow the species to move freely between sites used to meet essential life cycle requirements.


Criteria (f). Whether the habitat is necessary to ensure the long-term future of the species or ecological community through reintroduction or re-colonisation.

Shy albatrosses occupy most of the land area of the islands on which they breed.

Wandering and Grey-headed Albatrosses do not breed on all parts of Macquarie Island, but the entire island is critical to providing isolation for each population and protection from the impact of disturbance. Some of these populations are also recovering from past declines and hence expanding, hence the whole island is considered critical to their survival and future growth.

Macquarie Island is also subject to feral animal control, with an intensive control campaign focussed on the eradication of feral cats from the island.

Criteria (g). Any other way in which habitat may be critical to the survival of a listed threatened species or a listed threatened ecological community.



Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2008adh). Threat abatement plan for competition and land degradation by rabbits. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from:
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2008zzp). Threat Abatement Plan for predation by feral cats. [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from:
Environment Australia (2002). Map of Habitat Critical to the survival of Wandering Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross and Shy Albatross. [Online]. Canberra. Available from:
Environment Australia (EA) (2001f). National Recovery Plan for Albatrosses and Giant-Petrels 2001-2005. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia. Available from: