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Location Australia, Northern Territory
Central coordinates 136o 51.55' East  12o 3.90' South
IBA criteria A4i
Area 9 ha
Altitude 0 - 10m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary Higginson Island off the Arnhemland coast supports internationally important numbers of Bridled and Roseate Terns. The IBA also includes neighbouring islands to the west and south where the Roseate Tern colony appears to re-locate on some years, and large numbers of Bridled Terns regularly nest.

Site description This IBA consists of a chain of small islands running north from Nhulunbuy in Arnhemland. Higginson Island is a high rocky island with vines and grasses, at the end of the island chain, about 100 m x 60 m, Forlsche Rock is a small grassy rocky island to the south, East Bremer is a rocky and sandy island further south, from where a chain of rocky islets extend to South East Islet. The IBA also includes Veronica island to the west, which is a small vegetated coral rubble and rock island with a lighthouse. These are island refs S030, S031, S032, S033 and S085 in Chatto (2001).

Key Biodiversity Chatto (2001) made 10 counts on Higginson and also found 1000s of nesting Crested Terns (max 10,000+ birds), 100s of Common Noddies (max 300+ birds) - the only known breeding site in the Northern Territory - and 10s of nesting Silver Gulls. On East Bremer, Chatto made nine visits and recorded nesting Roseate Terns (maximum 2500 birds) on two out of three years when visits were made during the apparent nesting season. East Bremer and the rocky islets to the south also support up to 250 Bridled Terns, with another 400 Bridled Terns on South East islet. Veronica Island supported 1500 Roseate Terns one year in which they were missing from Higginson, and up to 2000 Bridled Terns (which may be additional to the Higginson totals). Forlsche Rock has had 200 Roseate Terns perhaps as an overspill from Higginson.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii breeding  1990-2000  30,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus breeding  1990-2000  10,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2008 low not assessed not assessed
Poor - based on little, or potentially unreliable/unrepresentative, data

No known threats no known threats happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Coastline Sea cliffs, rocky shores & rocky islets  major

Land ownership Arnhemland ALT

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
other major
Notes: Traditional use

Access/Land-Owner requests Traditionally-owned land.

References Chatto, R. (1998) Seabird islands. No. 238. Higginson Islet, north-east Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. Corella. 22: 69-70. Chatto, R. (2001) The distribution and status of colonial breeding seabirds in the NT. Technical Report 70. Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, Palmerston. Harrison, L., McGuire, L., Ward, S. Fisher, A., Pavey, C., Fegan, M. and Lynch, B. (2009) An inventory of sites of international and national significance for biodiversity values in the Northern Territory. Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts & Sport, Darwin, NT. Ward, S. and Harrison, L. (2009) Recognising sites of conservation significance for biodiversity values in the Northern Territory. Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts & Sport, Darwin, NT.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Higginson Island. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

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