|Location||Aruba (to Netherlands)|
|Central coordinates||69o 54.18' West 12o 25.26' North|
|IBA criteria||A4i, B4i|
|Altitude||1 - 3m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2007|
Ornithological information A significant regional site for Cayenne tern (1,300 – 3,500 prs.), black noddy (26-48 prs.) , roseate tern (25-75 prs.) and common tern (10-30 prs.). The site also includes sooty terns (2,000 - 6,600 prs.), brown noddy (120-180 prs.), bridled terns (3-150 prs.), least tern (5-85 prs.), and up to 10 prs of sandwich tern and royal tern. The timing of nesting is primarily between early April and mid-August, although black noddies may nest outside of this period.
Site description Five small (1.75km2) low lying (max height 3m), boulder-coral reef islets located at the south-east corner of Aruba. The islands are located within San Nicolas Bay separated from the mainland by a shallow lagoon (3m-15m) adjacent to a large oil refinery and the town of San Nicolas. Hurricanes, winter storms and heavy rains have changed the size, substrate and extent of vegetative cover on the islands. Human disturbance and egg collecting has been minimized through public awareness and education. Informal protection provided by the refinery staff with regular patrols by the coastguard.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Laughing Gull Larus atricilla||resident||2007||800 individuals||good||A4i||Least Concern|
|Royal Tern Sterna maxima||breeding||2007||10 breeding pairs||good||B4i||Least Concern|
|Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis||breeding||2007||1,300-3,500 breeding pairs||good||A4i||Least Concern|
|Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii||breeding||2007||25-75 breeding pairs||good||A4i||Least Concern|
|Common Tern Sterna hirundo||breeding||2007||10-30 breeding pairs||good||A4i||Least Concern|
|Least Tern Sterna antillarum||breeding||2007||5-85 breeding pairs||good||B4i||Least Concern|
|Bridled Tern Sterna anaethetus||breeding||2007||132 individuals||good||B4i||Least Concern|
|Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata||breeding||2006||14,340 individuals||good||B4i||Least Concern|
|Brown Noddy Anous stolidus||breeding||2007||520 individuals||good||B4i||Least Concern|
|Black Noddy Anous minutus||breeding||2007||26-48 breeding pairs||good||B4i||Least Concern|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
|nature conservation and research||major|
Other biodiversity Aruban whiptail lizards Cnemidophorus arubensis have been recorded on the islets; turtles are occasionally seen in the waters surrounding the islands; they are not known to breed on the islets. Queen conch (Strombus gigas) is relatively abundant (but not quantified) south of the San Nicolas Bay Reef Islands.
Management considerations Human disturbance by recreational visitors during April – August is the primary threat to nesting terns. A proposal for a new hotel complex within 1.5km of the islands poses a threat from water-sports enthusiasts who may venture to the islands. During nine years of intensive study there have been no significant incidents or threats from the oil refinery to the terns. Laughing gulls (Larus atricilla) represent a significant threat to nesting terns, particularly Cayenne terns, and account for 85% of egg and chick (<4–day old) mortality. Laughing gulls significantly affect overall breeding success particularly when Cayenne terns nest in small groups.
Protection status The islands were designated for protection in 1996.
Conservation response Preliminary surveys and conservation awareness initiated in 1984 (Halewyn 1985). A detailed study of tern population ecology has been conducted since 1999 by Dr. Adrian del Nevo (Applied Ecological Solutions Inc.) in collaboration with the government of Aruba, the various owners of the oil refinery and Caribe Alaska. Conservation efforts have included school involvement, a television documentary and annual newspaper articles.
Acknowledgements We are very thankful to the author of this information Dr. Adrian del Nevo, and Theo Wools and Facundo Franken for their review.
References AES (2006 and 2007), Bridge et. al (2005),Halewyn (1985), Voous (1983)
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2013) Important Bird Areas factsheet: San Nicolas Bay Reef Islands. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/05/2013
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