|Location||Heard Island and McDonald Islands (to Australia)|
|Central coordinates||73o 30.41' East 53o 5.60' South|
|IBA criteria||A1, A4ii, A4iii|
|Altitude||0 - 2,745m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2009|
Summary Massive numbers of nesting seabirds include the endangered Black-browed Albatross, the vulnerable Macaroni and (Southern) Rockhopper Penguins, near threatened Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and Gentoo Penguin, >1% world population of King Penguin, Southern Giant Petrel, Fulmar Prion, Brown Skua and Black-faced Sheathbill, and an endemic (sub)species of Imperial Shag.
Site description The Heard and McDonald Islands IBA contains the islands in the Australian Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) in the Indian Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean. It lies about 1500 km north of Antarctica and over 4000 km south-west of Australia. Heard Island is 368 km2 and dominated by Big Ben, an active volcano rising to Mawson Peak, at 2745 m. Most of the island is covered in snow and glacial ice (about 70%) and black volcanic rocks, with vegetation and bird nests and colonies restricted to the coastal fringe. The McDonald Islands group (2.45 km2, max altitude 230 m, 43.5 km west of Heard Island) includes McDonald Island, Flat Island and Meyer Rock. McDonald Island is also volcanic; since 1980, it has doubled in size and grown in height by almost 100 m as a result of lava flows in the 1990s. The IBA is included within the 65,000 km2 Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve (a category 1a IUCN protected area or strict nature reserve) and World Heritage Area which include the islands, all inshore waters to 12 nautical miles and some offshore waters.
Key Biodiversity Other nesting seabirds include around 1100 pairs of an endemic subspecies of Imperial Shag, 0-1 pairs of Wandering Albatross, 1000-2500 pairs of Cape Petrel, about 100,000 pairs of Antarctic Prion, 1000-10,000 pairs of Common Diving-Petrels, unknown numbers of Wilson’s Storm-petrel, about 250 pairs of Kelp Gull and 100-200 pairs of Antarctic Tern (Woehler 2006).
Non-bird biodiversity: Three species of seal breed on Heard Island: Southern Elephant Seal, Antarctic Fur Seal and Subantarctic Fur Seal. The only known introduced fauna species are a thrip and a mite. Twelve species of vascular plants are present. Two species of alien plants are present: Poa annua and Leptinella plumosa.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Macaroni Penguin Eudyptes chrysolophus||resident||2003-2004||1,000,000 breeding pairs||poor||A1, A4ii||Vulnerable|
|King Penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus||resident||2003-2004||80,000 breeding pairs||good||A4ii||Least Concern|
|Gentoo Penguin Pygoscelis papua||resident||2003-2004||16,000 breeding pairs||good||A1, A4ii||Near Threatened|
|Southern Rockhopper Penguin Eudyptes chrysocome||resident||2003-2004||10,000 breeding pairs||poor||A1, A4ii||Vulnerable|
|Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris||resident||2003-2004||600 breeding pairs||good||A1||Near Threatened|
|Light-mantled Albatross Phoebetria palpebrata||resident||2003-2004||500 breeding pairs||medium||A1, A4ii||Near Threatened|
|Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus||resident||2003-2004||2,500 breeding pairs||good||A4ii||Least Concern|
|South Georgia Diving-petrel Pelecanoides georgicus||resident||2003-2004||10,000-100,000 breeding pairs||medium||A4ii||Least Concern|
|Black-faced Sheathbill Chionis minor||resident||2003-2004||1,000 breeding pairs||medium||A4ii||Least Concern|
|Catharacta lonnbergi||resident||2003-2004||500 breeding pairs||good||A4ii||Not Recognised|
|A4iii Species group - seabirds||-||-||10,000 breeding pairs||unknown||A4iii|
|2008||medium||not assessed||not assessed|
|Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data|
|Human intrusions and disturbance||recreational activities||happening now||whole area/population (>90%)||no or imperceptible deterioration||low|
|Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species||fishing & harvesting aquatic resources - unintentional effects: large scale||happening now||some of area/population (10-49%)||no or imperceptible deterioration||low|
|Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species||fishing & harvesting aquatic resources - unintentional effects: large scale||happening now||some of area/population (10-49%)||slow but significant deterioration||medium|
|Protected area||Designation||Area (ha)||Relationship with IBA||Overlap with IBA (ha)|
|Heard Island and McDonald Islands||Marine Reserve||6,465,845||protected area contains site||37,045|
|Heard Island and McDonald Islands||Protected Area||38,760||protected area overlaps with site||37,045|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Wetlands (inland)||Permanent freshwater lakes||major|
Land ownership Australian Federal Government with management the responsibility of the Australian Antarctic Division.
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
|nature conservation and research||100%|
Protection status Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve.
Access/Land-Owner requests Access is strictly controlled by the Australian Antarctic Division.
Acknowledgements The nomination was prepared by Birds Australia with assistance from Eric Woehler.
References Australian Antarctic Division (2005) Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve Management Plan. Kingston, Tasmania: Australian Antarctic Division.
Woehler, E.J. (2006) Status and conservation of the seabirds of Heard Island and the McDonald Islands. Pp. 128-165 in K. Green and E.J. Woehler, eds. Heard Island, Southern Ocean Sentinel. Chipping Norton, New South Wales: Surrey Beatty and Sons.
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 (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Heard and McDonald Islands. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/05/2015
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife