ACAP Breeding Sites No. 30. Saunders Island, where Black-browed Albatrosses co-exist with sheep


A Black-browed albatross colony on Saunders Island, with The Neck in the background

Saunders Island is the second largest offshore island in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.  It is located in the north-west of the archipelago, comprising an area of 132 km2 and a coastline of about 100 km in length.  The island consists of three peninsulas linked by narrow necks, with extensive upland areas.  Saunders is privately-owned and is run as a working farm with sheep, cattle and horses.  It is a popular destination for both day and overnight visits.

It suffers from the presence of several introduced mammals: rats, mice, rabbits and cats.  The Neck, located on a narrow isthmus of sand, is a favoured destination for tourists, combining scenic beauty with an abundance of wildlife, including Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris that breed nearby.

A Black-browed Albatross on Saunders Island observes the photographer

Saunders Island is one of 12 breeding sites for Black-browed Albatrosses in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.  The albatross colonies are spread along the northern coastline of the island, and are often associated with stream beds or gulches that provide mud that is used for nest building and maintenance activities.

A Black-browed Albatross colony along the island’s northern coast

The island supports in excess of 10 000 breeding pairs of Black-browed Albatrosses, with an aerial census in 2010 recording 16 722 pairs compared with 13 053 pairs recorded during ground surveys made later the same year.  As with most other Black-browed Albatross breeding sites in the region, the population has been increasing in recent years.

The Neck, with a Southern Rockhopper Penguin colony in the foreground

On account of its Black-browed Albatross population and other breeding seabirds, including Gentoo Pygoscelis papua, Southern Rockhopper Eudyptes chrysocome and Magellanic Spheniscus magellanicus Penguins, Saunders Island is an Important Bird Area (IBA).  It is one of the few sites in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)* where one may be able to see five species of penguins breeding: Gentoo, Magellanic, King Aptenodytes patagonicus, Southern Rockhopper, and Macaroni E. chrysolophus, the last sometimes breeding within Rockhopper colonies.

A Black-browed Albatross on its nest at The Neck, Saunders Island

All photographs by Anton Wolfaardt

Although ACAP-listed Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus do not breed on Saunders Island, there is a small colony (c. five pairs) on Burnt Islet, just to its south.

Click here for an ACAP Breeding Sites account for New Island in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.

Selected references:

Catry, P., Forcada, J. & Almeida, A. 2011.  Demographic parameters of Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris from the Falkland Islands.  Polar Biology 34: 1221-1229.

Falklands Conservation 2006.  Important Bird Areas of the Falkland Islands.  London:  Falklands Conservation.  160 pp.

Strange, I.J. 2008.   Aerial Surveys of Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris: the Methodology Employed and Comparisons with Surveys Carried out in 1986-2005-2006 and 2007.  New Island: Design in Nature & Falkland Islands Wildlife.  59 pp.

Strange, I.J. & Strange, G. 2011.  Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris.  Aerial Photographic Survey Methodology: Advantages over Ground Surveying in the Falkland Islands. Results and Comparisons with Surveys in 2005 and 2010.  Stanley: Design in Nature.  30 pp.

Summers, D. 2005.  A Visitor’s Guide to the Falkland Islands.  London: Falklands Conservation.  132 pp.

Wagstaff, W. 2001.  Falkland Islands.  The Bradt Travel Guide.  Chalfont St Peter: Bradt Travel Guides.  182 pp.

Wolfaardt, A.[C.] 2012.  An Assessment of the Population Trends and Conservation Status of Black-browed Albatrosses in the Falkland Islands.  23 pp.

Wolfaardt, A.C., Rendell, N. & Brickle, P. 2010.  Falkland Islands Implementation Plan for the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP): Review of Current Work and a Prioritised Work Programme for the Future.  Stanley:  Falkland Islands Government.  57 pp.

Anton Wolfaardt, Joint Nature Conservation Committee & John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 May 2013

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

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