Bjørnøya (Bear Island)

Year of compilation: 2000

Site description
An oceanic island between Spitsbergen and Norway. There are steep sea cliffs at the southern end, while the northern part is flat with numerous lakes and ponds. There is rich vegetation close to the seabird colonies, but tundra is far more sparse in the central and northern parts. The only permanent human settlement on the island is a meteorological station, which does not pose any threat to the birdlife.

Key biodiversity
There is a very large seabird colony at the southern end of the island with many tens of thousands of pairs, dominated by Rissa tridactyla, Uria aalge and Uria lomvia. Other notable breeding birds include at least five out of the 32 species that are restricted in Europe (when breeding) to the Arctic/tundra biome. The island is an important staging area for an unknown but significant proportion of the Svalbard populations of Anser brachyrhynchus (c.30,000 birds in total) and Branta leucopsis (c.13,000 birds in total).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Bjørnøya may be developed as a supply base for ships and oil rigs, in the event of future activity by the oil industry in the Barents Sea. However, in 1999 the Norwegian government suggested that the whole island might be designated as a Nature Reserve. Representatives of both the Norwegian and the Russian mining industries have protested against this initiative, and the oil industry is also likely to react negatively to such plans. The greatest threats to birds at the island are oil spills and food shortages, the latter partly due to overfishing. The populations of Fulmarus glacialis, Rissa tridactyla, Uria aalge and Uria lomvia have been monitored since 1986.

Protected areas
National None International None

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bjørnøya (Bear Island). Downloaded from on 23/07/2019.