email a friend
printable version
Location Turks and Caicos Islands (to UK), Big Sandy Cay,East Cay,Long Cay,Penniston Cay
Central coordinates 71o 5.81' West  21o 24.76' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii, B4ii
Area 1,815 ha
Altitude 0 - 12m
Year of IBA assessment 2007

Site description Small rocky cays, with some sandy beaches, especially at Big Sand Cay. Long Cay is Statutory Sanctuary 25. Other small cays near Grand Turk constitute Grand Turk Cays Land and Sea National Park (Statutory NP 7). Penniston Cay and East (formerly Pinzon) Cay need transferring from this to Sanctuary status; Gibbs Cay should remain a National Park. Big Sand Cay Sanctuary is Statutory Sanctuary 23.

Key Biodiversity The site qualifies for A4iii status since it is known to hold on a regular basis more than 20,000 waterbirds. East (or Pinzon) Cay supports a regionally important breeding proportion of Audubon's Shearwaters. They probably breed on other Cays as well as East. Laughing Gull (150 breeding pairs) and White-tailed Tropicbirds (40 breeding pairs) are also recorded. Penniston Cay supports internationally important breeding numbers of Bridled Terns, with smaller numbers on other cays. Penniston Cay supports also the only breeding colony of Brown Boobies in TCI and a small colony of Magnificent Frigatebirds, which may reach Caribbean importance in some years. Long Cay supports important numbers of the Caribbean population of breeding Brown Noddies (7,400 breeding pairs) with the numbers here and on Penniston Cay constituting respectively "43%" and "9%" of the Caribbean population. Big Sand Cay's breeding Sooty Terns comprise more than 1% of the global population.

Non-bird biodiversity: Some cays are important for endemic vegetation and lizards Turks & Caicos Rock Iguanas Cyclura carinata carinata and Curly Tail Leiocephalus psammodromus, Shores are likely to be nest-sites for turtles Chelonia midas (EN), Eretmochelys imbricata (CR), Caretta caretta (EN).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus breeding  2005  40 breeding pairs  poor  B4ii  Least Concern 
Laughing Gull Larus atricilla breeding  2005  150 breeding pairs  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus breeding  2005  2,300 breeding pairs  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus breeding  2005  44,000 breeding pairs  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Brown Noddy Anous stolidus breeding  2005  7,400 breeding pairs  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds breeding  2005  min 53,000 breeding pairs  poor  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Big Sand Cay Sanctuary 151 protected area overlaps with site 0  
Grand Turk Cays, Land and Sea National Park 156 protected area overlaps with site 0  
Long Cay Sanctuary 80 protected area contained by site 80  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Sea Shallow marine waters, coral reefs and keys  major
Rocky areas   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -

Further web sources of information 

Site profile from Important Bird Areas in the Caribbean: key sites for conservation (BirdLife International 2008)

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Turks Bank Seabird Cays. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife