Yankee Harbour, Greenwich Island

Site description (2015 baseline):

Site location and context

Yankee Harbour lies on the southwestern coastline of Greenwich Island, South Shetland Islands. Yankee Harbour is bordered by Glacier Bluff to the north and east, and enclosed by Spit Point to the west. A large terraced beach in the southeast of Yankee Harbour contains a melt pool, beyond which steep scree slopes rise sharply inland to over 250 m. The IBA qualifies on the basis of the Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua) colony present and comprises the ice-free area from Spit Point to the foot of the permanent ice on Greenwich Island.

Mosses, lichens, algae and the flowering plants Antarctic Hairgrass (Deschampsia antarctica) and Antarctic Pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis) are found at Yankee Harbour (ATS Visitor Site Guidelines, Yankee Harbour). Yankee Harbour was once a popular anchorage for sealers, with some artefacts still present. The nearest scientific station is Arturo Prat (CHL), which has capacity for ~15 people and operates year-round on the northern coast of Greenwich Island ~7 km from Yankee Harbour (COMNAP, Antarctic Facilities, accessed 23/08/2010).

Key biodiversity

Approximately 4918 breeding pairs of Gentoo Penguin were present on the beach and slopes around the southeast shoreline of Yankee Harbour in 2003 (Lynch et al. 2008), and 4803 pairs in 2012/13 (Lynch et al. 2013). Skuas (Catharacta spp.) also breed in the area although no census has been reported. Snowy Sheathbill (Chionis albus) and Wilson's Storm-petrel (Oceanites oceanicus) are suspected breeders.

Non-bird biodiversity: Southern Elephant Seals (Mirounga leonina), Weddell Seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) and Antarctic Fur Seals (Arctocephalus gazella) regularly haul out along the beaches of Yankee Harbour (ATS Visitor Site Guidelines, Yankee Harbour). There are no records of seals breeding in the area.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity

With its interesting history and wildlife, Yankee Harbour is a popular tourist destination, with an average of 2570 visitors landing annually (IAATO Tourism Statistics 2005–2010, accessed: 06/08/2010). Guidance for tourist visits is available in the ATS Visitor Site Guidelines for Yankee Harbour. Tourists are generally in organised tours supervised by expedition guides, and are advised to walk slowly and maintain a distance of at least 5 m from birds. Visitor impacts on birds at the site are unknown, although because of the management measures in place are expected to be low.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Yankee Harbour, Greenwich Island. Downloaded from on 25/02/2024.