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Location Australia, Tasmania
Central coordinates 158o 52.96' East  54o 37.59' South
IBA criteria A1, A4ii
Area 12,785 ha
Altitude 0 - 410m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary About 3.5 million seabirds of 13 species nest, including the endangered Wandering and Black-browed Albatross, the vulnerable Grey-headed Albatross, more than 1% of the world population of the Vulnerable Royal and (Southern) Rockhopper Penguin and more than 1% world population of King and Gentoo Penguin, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, Northern Giant Petrel, White-headed Petrel and Brown Skua.

Site description Macquarie Island is a sub-antarctic island located approximately halfway between Antarctica and Australia, 1466 km south-east of Tasmania and 1294 km north of the Antarctic continent. The IBA includes the whole island and the nearby Judge and Clerk Islets and Bishop and Clerk Islets. The island lies just to the north of an oceanic boundary, the Antarctic Polar Frontal Zone or Antarctic Convergence, where cold polar waters meet warmer sub-antarctic waters. The island is 34 km long and up to 5 km wide and consists of a long plateau, 200-350 m above sea level, surrounded on all sides by steep slopes or cliffs. Mean temperatures for summer and winter are 7oC and 3oC respectively, and annual mean rainfall is approximately 900mm and falls an average of 310 days each year. Severe earthquakes occur once a decade and landslips are common on steep coastal slopes, the latter due to soil instability caused by overgrazing by rabbits. Management is funded by the Tasmanian State and Commonwealth governments and the Australian Antarctic Division, and up to 50 scientists and support people and a number of tourist vessels visit the island each year. The island has suffered from several introduced species; cats were eradicated in 2000 but this has led to an increase in the numbers of rabbits which are now due to be eradicated. The islands and seas to three nautical miles are a Nature Reserve; the islands and seas to 12 nautical miles are a World Heritage Area; and 162,000 km2 of seas to the east are in the Macquarie Island Marine Park.

Key Biodiversity Other nesting seabirds include around 660 pairs of the endemic subspecies of Imperial Shag Phalacrocorax albiventer purpurascens, about 49,000 pairs of Antarctic Prion in 1975-1982 (the 1% threshold is 500,000 pairs), small numbers of Fairy Prion and Common Diving-Petrel, unknown numbers of Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (on Bishop and Clerk Islets), Grey Petrel (small numbers re-established after cat eradication in 2000), Blue Petrel (500-600 pairs in 1975-1982), Kelp Gull (low numbers), Sooty Shearwater (1777 burrows counted in 1975-1982 (Brothers 1984) and 50-1000 pairs estimated by Parks and Wildlife Service (2006)) and Antarctic Tern (24 pairs in latest survey); and Soft-plumaged Petrel and Grey-backed Storm-Petrel probably breed. The only other native bird, Pacific Black Duck, is hybridising with introduced Mallards. The Redpoll and Common Starling are considered to be self-introduced aliens (from introduced populations in New Zealand) and are widespread on the island. Wekas were introduced but were eradicated in the 1980s.

Non-bird biodiversity: A breeding ground for approximately 100,000 seals: southern elephant seal, subantarctic fur seal, Antarctic fur seal and New Zealand fur seal; 45 recorded species of vascular plants (but no true woody plants), around 150 bryophytes, over 150 lichens, more than 260 fungi (excluding microfungi), 25 slime molds, at least 120 freshwater algae, and 110 marine and littoral algae.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
King Penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus resident  2000  150,000-170,000 breeding pairs  medium  A4ii  Least Concern 
Gentoo Penguin Pygoscelis papua breeding  1984-2002  3,800-6,800 breeding pairs  medium  A1, A4ii  Near Threatened 
Eudyptes chrysocome resident  100,000 breeding pairs  poor  A1, A4ii  Not Recognised 
Royal Penguin Eudyptes schlegeli resident  1984-1985  850,000 breeding pairs  poor  A1, A4ii  Near Threatened 
Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris resident  1993-1999  46-141 breeding pairs  A1  Near Threatened 
Grey-headed Albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma resident  100-120 breeding pairs  good  A1  Endangered 
Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans resident  10 breeding pairs  good  A1  Vulnerable 
Light-mantled Albatross Phoebetria palpebrata resident  2000-2002  1,500-1,800 breeding pairs  good  A1, A4ii  Near Threatened 
Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus resident  2000-2002  2,300 breeding pairs  medium  A4ii  Least Concern 
White-headed Petrel Pterodroma lessonii resident  1984-2006  7,850-9,000 breeding pairs  poor  A4ii  Least Concern 
Catharacta lonnbergi resident  1974-1984  204-285 breeding pairs  poor  A4ii  Not Recognised 

IBA Monitoring

2013 low not assessed not assessed
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species past (and unlikely to return) and no longer limiting whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration low
Residential and commercial development commercial and industrial development likely in long term (beyond 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Macquarie Island World Heritage Site 540,000 protected area contains site 12,785  
Macquarie Island (Terrestrial component) Nature Reserve 13,182 protected area contains site 12,785  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Coastline Sea cliffs, rocky shores & rocky islets  major
Grassland Tundra & subantarctic grasslands; Tussock grasslands  major

Land ownership Tasmanian Government with management the responsibility of Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 100%

Protection status Macquarie Island Nature Reserve.

Access/Land-Owner requests Access to the island, including tourist ships, is regulated by the Parks and Wildlife Service.

Acknowledgements The nomination was prepared by Birds Australia with assistance from Rachael Alderman, Rosemary Gales and Eric Woehler who provided data and comments.

References Bergstrom, D.M, Lucieer, A., Kiefer, K., Wasley, J., Belbin, L., Pedersen, T.K. and Chown, S.L. (2009) Indirect effects of invasive species removal devastate World Heritage Island. Journal of Applied Ecology 46: 73–81.

Brothers, N.P. (1984) Breeding distribution and status of burrow-nesting petrels at Macquarie Island. Australian Wildlife Research 11. 113-131.

Carmichael, N. (2007) Macquarie Island, its conservation and management. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 141: 11-17.

Copson, G.R. and Rounsevell, D.E. (1987) The abundance of Royal Penguins (Eudyptes schlegeli, Finsch) breeding at Macquarie Island. ANARE Research Notes 41.

Gales, R. (1998). Albatross populations: status and threats. Pp. 20-45. In: Robertson, G. and Gales, R. (Eds) Albatross Biology and Conservation. Surrey Beatty: Sydney. Parks and Wildlife Service (2006) Macquarie Island Nature Reserve and World Heritage Area Management Plan. Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Tourism, Arts and the Environment: Hobart.

Parks and Wildlife Service (2008). Macquarie Island Rabbit and rodent eradication plan. accessed May 2008.

Pemberton D. and Gales R. (1987) Notes on the status and breeding of imperial cormorants Phalacrocorax atriceps at Heard Island. Cormorant 15. 33-40.

Skira, I.J. (1984) Breeding distribution of the Brown Skua on Macquarie Island. Emu 84: 248-249.

Terauds, A. (2000). Status and conservation of albatrosses and giant petrels on Macquarie Island. Report on 1999/2000 field season and summary of research to date: 1994/95–1999/00. Report to Environment Australia. Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment: Hobart.

Terauds, A., Gales, R. and Alderman, R. (2005) Trends in numbers and survival of Black-browed (Thalassarche melanophrys) and Grey-eaded (T. chrysostoma) Albatrosses breeding on Macquarie Island. Emu 105: 159-167.

Terauds, A., Gales, R., Baker, G.B. and Alderman, R. (2006) Population and survival trends of Wandering Albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) breeding on Macquarie Island. Emu 106: 211-218.

Woehler, E.J. (1991) Status and conservation of the seabirds of Heard Island and the McDonald Islands. Pp. 263-275 in Croxall, J.P., (Ed.) Seabird status and conservation: a supplement. ICBP Technical Publication 11. International Council for Bird Preservation: Cambridge, U.K.

Woehler, E.J., Riddle M.J. and Ribic, C.A. (2003) Long term population trends in Southern Giant Petrels in East Antarctica. Pp. 290-295. In: Huiskes, A.H.L., Gieskes, W.W.C., Rozema, J., Schorno, R.M.L., van der Vies, S.M. and Wolff, W.J. (Eds) Antarctic Biology in a Global Context. Backhuys Publishers: Leiden, The Netherlands.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Macquarie Island. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

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