Rookery Islands

Year of compilation: 2015

Site description

Rookery Islands comprise around 75 small islands and islets situated in western Holme Bay, Mawson Coast, Mac.Robertson Land. The largest islands of the group are Giganteus Island in the northwest, ~0.6km long by 0.4km wide, and Rookery Island in the south, ~1km long and 0.25km wide. The islands are generally rocky and of low relief, rising to ~60 m on Rookery Island, ~25 m on Giganteus Island, and generally ranging between 10 – 30 m on other smaller islands in the group (Australian Antarctic Data Centre 2001).

The area is designated as ASPA No. 102 to protect resident breeding bird species, including the Southern Giant Petrel (Macronectes giganteus) and Cape Petrel (Daption capense), which are not found elsewhere in the local region (ASPA No. 102 Management Plan 2010). The IBA qualifies on the basis of the Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) colony present and coincides with the boundary of ASPA No. 102.

The nearest permanent station is Mawson (AUS) ~ 15 km to the east in Holme Bay, Mawson Coast.

Key biodiversity

Six bird species are known to breed on Rookery Islands (Table 121.1). The following description is drawn mainly from the ASPA No. 102 Management Plan (2010). Adélie Penguins breed on 14 islands, with the largest numbers occurring on Rookery and Giganteus islands. Southern Giant Petrels nest on Giganteus Island only, and while the colony is stable it is considered marginal with typically 2 – 4 pairs breeding each year since the 1960s. Giganteus Island is designated as a Restricted Zone within ASPA No. 102 in order to offer the highest level of protection to resident Southern Giant Petrels.

Cape Petrels breed on Rookery Island and on a smaller island ~300 m to the northwest. Snow Petrels ( Pagodroma nivea ) breed throughout the island group with the highest concentration on Rookery Island. Wilson's Storm-petrels ( Oceanites oceanicus ) are also frequently observed and are probably breeding on the larger islands, although nests have not been formally observed. South Polar Skua ( Catharacta maccormicki ) breeding locations are not recorded in the published literature.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity

Southern Giant Petrels are particularly sensitive to disturbance, and the resident colony of only a few pairs is considered marginal. The Restricted Zone at Giganteus Island designated under ASPA No. 102 helps protect the colony. A sizeable permanent research station is present nearby and relatively minor disturbance to the colony could lead to local extinction. To manage these risks, strict protection has been given to this colony within ASPA No. 102, and pilots operating aircraft locally are instructed to avoid low overflight of the area.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2018) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Rookery Islands. Downloaded from on 21/02/2018.