Cape Melville, King George Island

Country/territory: Antarctica

IBA Criteria met: A4iii (2011)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 388 ha

Protection status:

Site description

Cape Melville is a low-lying, ice-free headland at the eastern extremity of King George Island. The original IBA qualified on the basis of the concentration of seabirds present (in particular Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica)). The IBA included all of the ice-free area of Cape Melville and Ørnen Rocks, which lie ~1 km north of Cape Melville, and the intervening marine area.

The nearest permanent scientific station is Comandante Ferraz (Brazil) ~43 km to the west in Admiralty Bay, more information on which can be found under IBA ANT037.

Key biodiversity

The site originally qualified as an IBA because Woehler (1993) reported 16 278 breeding pairs of Chinstrap Penguin in the Cape Melville area, meeting the A4iii IBA criteria. On closer investigation, Croxall & Kirkwood (1979) reported 3250 pairs of Chinstrap Penguin at Cape Melville and 1100 pairs at Ørnen Rocks, based on counts made at the end of January 1966 with an estimated accuracy of ±10-15%. However, Jablonski (1984) reported 9970 pairs present at Cape Melville, and 6308 pairs present at Trowbridge Island, although the timing, method and accuracy of these counts are unknown. Jablonski (1984) found no penguin colony at Ørnen Rocks, but rather Imperial Shags (Phalacrocorax [atriceps] bransfieldensis), and noted the presence of shear coastal cliffs, perhaps making penguin breeding unlikely. The report of a Chinstrap Penguin colony at Ørnen Rocks in Croxall & Kirkwood (1979) may be a case of mistaken identification. Shuford & Spear (1988b) made a rough estimate (accuracy ±10-20%) of 4000 to 4500 pairs at Cape Melville and ~1000 pairs at Trowbridge Island, while no count was made at Ørnen Rocks. The number given in Woehler (1993) is an aggregation of counts for Cape Melville and Trowbridge Island made by Jablonski (1984).

In view of the considerable uncertainty and lack of recent and reliable data, and taking into account that the colonies at Cape Melville and Trowbridge Island are widely separated, it was concluded that the site does not presently qualify as an IBA and it has been delisted.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Cape Melville, King George Island. Downloaded from on 21/10/2020.