Lively Island Group

Country/territory: Falkland Islands (Malvinas)

IBA criteria met: A1, A2 (2006)
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Area: 6,796 ha

Falklands Conservation

Site description (2006 baseline)
Lively Island is gently undulating lowland with the highest point at only 37 m. The coastline is deeply indented, with extensive kelp beds. There are many streams and several ponds, the largest being Enderby Pond (about 7 ha), which has much emergent vegetation, mainly the California Club-rush Schoenoplectus californicus, and is an important site for waterfowl. The island has been farmed since the mid-19th century with uncontrolled grazing by cattle, sheep and horses in earlier years. Little Tussac remains and there are many large patches of eroded ground. There are long sandbars and dunes on the eastern coast, and plantations of Marram Ammophila arenaria. Lively is the largest rat-free island in the Falklands archipelago and may be one of the largest in the world. North East Island, lying just 350 m off the coast of Lively, was infested with rats until September 2003, when an intensive rat eradication programme was carried out. The island is divided in two by a huge sandbar, which is well vegetated with Marram. The inter-tidal area is heavily inundated by sand and, at low tide, is a favoured feeding area for migrant White-rumped Sandpipers during the southern summer. The sea may occasionally break through the bar at spring high tides, especially with a strong easterly wind. Middle Island reaches no more than 15 m in height towards the north-eastern point and the central ridge. There is open mature Tussac along the southern and eastern coasts, while there is considerable erosion on the northern coast above the 10 m-high cliffs. The habitat is varied, with large sand beaches and some dunes on the eastern coast, lush grasslands and areas of semi-permanent water with some interesting plants. Motley Island has low cliffs and large shelf-rock beaches on the north-eastern, south-eastern and central western coasts. It reaches an altitude of 15 m in only four places. There are mature Tussac fringes, mainly at the northern and southern points, with inland grasslands recovering from years of grazing, but there are still areas of severe erosion on the western coast. Lying just 0.3 miles (0.5 km) south of Motley Island is The Mot, or Little Motley as it is sometimes called. The island is dome shaped and fairly open, but mature Tussac covers approximately half the island’s surface.

Key biodiversity
Lively Island has good populations of songbirds, including Cobb’s Wrens and Tussacbirds, in the absence of rats. About 38 species were recorded (1980s), most of which were breeding, including several hundred Imperial Shags. White-tufted/Rolland’s Grebes, Black-crowned Nightherons and Black-necked Swans frequent Enderby Pond on the western Sal Point, where White-winged Coots have been seen several times. A total of 34 species was recorded on North East Island in February 2003, when rats were widespread; 24 species bred or probably bred, but there was a very low density of songbirds given the abundant vegetation cover, which provided suitable breeding habitat, and the availability of food, especially from Wild Celery Apium australe and Diddle-dee Empetrum rubrum. The Cobb’s Wren was absent as a breeding species and there were only small numbers of Tussacbirds. On Middle Island 35 species were recorded (1997), of which 29 were potential breeding species. These included all nine native songbirds in good numbers. The presence of breeding Diving-petrels was strongly suspected but could not be confirmed. There was one colony of about 300 pairs of Imperial Shags, and Magellanic Penguins were particularly numerous and well spread. During two visits to Motley Island (January 1995 and January 1997) a total of 41 species was recorded, of which 35 were either breeding or probably breeding. Songbirds were plentiful, notably the Cobb’s Wren and Falkland Grass Wren, Falkland Thrush, Canary-winged/Black-throated Finch and the Blackchinned Siskin.

Non-bird biodiversity: Southern Sea Lions can be seen hauled out on many of the islands of this group. They breed on Green (125 pups), Sal (47) and Motley (32), and there were signs of quite heavy use by Southern Sea Lions on The Mot. North East Island holds a small breeding population on the southern coast with three pups in 2003, while Southern Elephant Seals often use this island to haul out. Though stocked with several hundred sheep until 1994, North East Island has a good variety of flora (65 species recorded) and is notable for its flourishing cover of Oxeye Daisies Leucanthemum vulgare mixed with Wild Celery Apium australe on coastal slopes. There is also a thriving population of the uncommon Mudwort Limosella australis on a rocky shelf below a 2 m cliff on the northern coast. A total of 65 plants (50 native including five endemics) has been recorded on Middle Island, including the False Ladleleaved Buttercup Ranunculus pseudotrullifolius (native, local and scarce), a good population of Mudwort in a shallow, semi-permanent pond and large areas of Bluegrass Poa alopecurus growing on sand. In another damp area with several plants of the very uncommon Falkland Rock Cress Phlebolobium maclovianum, the only population known in the Falklands of Fuegian Foxtail Grass Alopecurus magellanicus was found. Both species of endemic ragwort were found, growing in close proximity. The vegetation of Motley Island is varied, with 83 plant species recorded including 56 natives. The low cliffs of the eastern coast shelter some stands of Swordgrass, and the rare Hairy Daisy Erigeron incertus was among four endemics found. Other interesting or rare plants included the Yellow Orchid Gavilea littoralis and Dusty Miller Primula magellanica.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Lively Island Group. Downloaded from on 22/02/2024.