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Location Antarctica
Central coordinates 68o 54.00' West  67o 46.00' South
IBA criteria A4i, A4ii, A4iii
Area 121 ha
Altitude 0 - 40m
Year of IBA assessment 2011





Site description Avian Island is a small island lying ~0.5 km south of Adelaide Island in Marguerite Bay, on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Avian Island is one of the most ornithologically important sites in the Antarctic Peninsula region, and is designated as Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) No. 117. The ASPA includes the littoral zone, offshore islets and rocks and a 100 m buffer zone around the shoreline. The IBA is defined by the boundary of the ASPA.

Avian Island is of rocky, low relief of up to 40 m, with an irregular coastline. The southern coastline features steep cliffs with rocky ledges, suitable for small nesting birds. Other bird habitats include scattered rocks and boulders, ice-free ground, and a gently sloping, well-drained northern shoreline. Several ephemeral freshwater ponds, meltwater channels and small streams are present. Strong tidal currents are common in the surrounding sea, helping to keep coastal waters ice-free. In addition, strong winds reduce snow accumulation, resulting in more favourable conditions for bird colonisation (ASPA No. 117 Management Plan, 2002). Vegetation is sparse across Avian Island and dominated by lichens and mosses.

The nearest permanent scientific station is Teniente Luis Carvajal (Chile), a summer-only station lying ~1 km from Avian Island on the southern shore of Adelaide Island. No long-term meteorological records are available for Avian Island. However, at Teniente Luis Carvajal Station the mean daily maximum temperature was 3ºC in February for the period 1962-74, whilst the mean daily minimum temperature was –8ºC in August for the same period (ASPA No. 117 Management Plan, 2002). Most snowfall occurs between August and October, with light precipitation occurring through the austral summer.

Key Biodiversity Seven bird species are known to breed on the island, more than at most other sites in the region. An Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) colony occupies much of the northern half of the island with 35,600 breeding pairs estimated in 1979, representing one of the largest breeding colonies on the Antarctic Peninsula. A large Imperial Shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps) colony has been recorded on the southwestern coast of the island, totalling 670 pairs in 1989 (Poncet & Poncet, unpublished data). Avian Island holds the largest breeding colony of Southern Giant Petrel (Macronectes giganteusi) south of the South Shetland Islands, with 250 breeding pairs recorded in 1990 (Poncet & Poncet 1990) and 237 chicks estimated in 2001 (Harris 2001). A colony of Kelp Gulls (Larus dominicanus) of around 60 pairs breed near the southern extent of their range on Avian island (Poncet & Poncet 1979), and South Polar Skua (Catharacta maccormicki) breeding colonies are present in central and eastern parts of the island (Fraser pers. comm. in Ritz et al. 2005). The southernmost record of breeding Brown Skua (Catharacta lonnbergi) has also been documented on Avian Island and several hundred pairs of Wilson’s Storm Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus) breed in rocky outcrops around the island (Poncet & Poncet 1979).

Non-breeding species observed on Avian Island include the Antarctic Tern (Sterna vittata), Southern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacioloides), Antarctic Petrel (Thalassoica antarctica), Cape Petrel (Daption capense), King (Aptenodytes patagonicus) and Chinstrap (Pygoscelis antarctica) penguins.

Non-bird biodiversity: Weddell Seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) and Elephant Seals (Mirounga leonina) commonly haul out and breed on Avian Island (ASPA No. 117 Management Plan, 2002). Non-breeding Antarctic Fur Seals (Arctocephalus gazella) also frequent the island with several hundred present on low-lying ground and beaches in February 2001 (Harris 2001). Leopard Seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) are also occasionally observed on Avian Island.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Adelie Penguin Pygoscelis adeliae breeding  1978  35,600 breeding pairs  A4ii  Near Threatened 
Phalacrocorax atriceps breeding  1989  670 breeding pairs  A4i  Not Recognised 
South Polar Skua Catharacta maccormicki breeding  2004  880 breeding pairs  A4ii  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - seabirds breeding  1978-2004  37,150 breeding pairs  A4iii   

Protection status ASPA No.117

References ASPA No. 117 Avian Island: Management Plan (2002)

Poncet, S. 1982. Le Grand Hiver: Damien II Base Antarctique. Les Éditions Arthaud, Paris

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Avian Island. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/12/2014

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