Seal Bay, East Falkland

Year of compilation: 2006

Site description
The coastline is exposed with rugged north-facing cliffs and has very little shelter other than a few indented bays. Inland, a deep sheltered valley, which once contained an estuary, now holds the land-locked Swan Pond, which is long and shallow with wet grassland where geese congregate. A sandbar, only a few feet high, separates the pond from the beach. Vegetation is maritime heath and typical boggy Whitegrass plains on peat. There is a Tussac plantation at Rabbit Rincon, which until recently was protected from grazing and provided a habitat for breeding Rockhopper Penguins and a haul-out site for Southern Sea Lions. Offshore, tall rocky stacks dot the coastline. These are often crowned with Tussac and, due to currents and the exposure of these north cliffs, are free of predators and constitute relicts of previous habitats of the mainland.

Key biodiversity
The area is notable for the small population of Sooty Shearwaters located close to Wineglass Hill and at Rabbit Rincon. It is almost certain that a further substantial colony exists on the offshore Tussac-covered stack nearby, where other burrowing petrels might also breed. Imperial and Rock Shags are present but counts are required. Three to four pairs of Macaroni Penguins, including hybrids with Rockhopper Penguins do not qualify the site. The first pair of Barn Owls proved to breed in the Falklands was found nesting in the old gorse-covered corral close to Seal Bay shepherd’s house in 1987. Endemic sub-species present include the Whitetufted/ Rolland’s Grebe on Swan Pond, the Upland Goose, Falkland Grass Wren, Falkland Pipit and the Falkland Thrush

Non-bird biodiversity: Southern Sea Lions haul out all along the coast and breed at MacBride Head, a favourite site, where 64 pups were counted in 2003. In 1996, 46 species of flowering plants were found on the coast and inland, including 33 native (three endemics) and 13 introduced species. There was a notable population of tall Pale Maiden Olsynium filifolium on the hilltop of Rabbit Rincon in a paddock that had been fenced and not grazed for several years.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The area is under slight grazing pressure, although sensitive sites were protected where possible by fencing. For several years, the site was open to tourists travelling overland who were always accompanied by experienced guides. In 2003, the owners restricted access and at the time of writing (2004) no visitors are allowed. The status of many species needs investigation. This site was checked annually as part of the FISMP, but even the monitoring of key species by Falklands Conservation is now prohibited. Feral cats are often seen near the Rockhopper Penguin colonies more than 10 km from the nearest settlement, and the remains of penguins have frequently been seen around unoccupied Magellanic Penguin burrows. The chewed remains of Sooty Shearwaters have also been found by their burrows on Wineglass Hill, which would again point to predation by cats. Control measures are needed to protect these penguins, and the only known shearwater colonies on East Falkland, from feral cats. All future visitors should be informed about the dangers of accidentally introducing alien species to the Falklands. It is very important that the Falkland Islands Countryside Code is followed, particularly to guard against the risk of fire.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Seal Bay, East Falkland. Downloaded from on 03/10/2022.