Cierva Point and offshore islands

Country/territory: Antarctica

IBA criteria met: A4ii (2015)
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Area: 5,903 ha

Site description (2015 baseline)

Cierva Point (64°09' S, 60°57' W) lies on the Danco Coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, 50 km east of Brabant Island, and forms the southern entrance to Cierva Cove. The IBA qualifies on the basis of the South Polar Skua (Catharacta maccormicki) colony present and is defined by the same boundary of Antarctic Specially Protected Area No. 134, which includes Cierva Point, Sterneck Island, Midas Island, Moss Islands and surrounding offshore islands. The intervening marine area and intertidal zone is included in the IBA.

South-facing slopes at Cierva Point are largely glaciated, whilst the north- and west-facing slopes comprise ice-free scree slopes, rock terraces and gullies. The terrain rises to a height of over 500 m on coastal cliffs. Coastal vegetation is extensive and includes lichens, mosses and grasses. Peat in moss-covered areas reaches ~80 cm in thickness and cover areas of more than 1 ha (Rau et al. 2000).

No long-term weather data for the site are available. However, Quintana (2001) recorded weather at Cierva Point during the summer of 1992/93 with mean monthly temperature ranging from 1.8°C to 2.2°C, whilst relative humidity averaged 79 % and mean wind speed was 7.9 kmh-1.

Primavera Station (ARG) is situated ~500 m from the IBA boundary on the northern tip of Cierva Point. The summer only station has capacity for ~18 people and is serviced by ship and a helicopter landing site (COMNAP, Antarctic Facilities, accessed 09/08/2010).

Key biodiversity

At least 12 bird species breed within the IBA, with Chinstrap (Pygoscelis antarctica) and Gentoo (P. papua) penguins, Wilson's Storm-petrel (Oceanites oceanicus), South Polar Skua and Kelp Gulls (Larus dominicanus) the most abundant of species present (ASPA No. 134 Management Plan, 2006).

Quintana et al. (2000) documented 93 breeding pairs of South Polar Skua at Cierva Point in 1995, whilst an estimated 475 pairs of skua (predominantly Catharacta maccormicki) are thought to breed over the entire IBA (ASPA No. 134 Management Plan, 2006). S. Poncet (unpublished data, pers. comm. 2005) recorded 70 pairs of Imperial Shag (Phalacrocorax [atriceps] bransfieldensis) breeding on Midas Island in 1987, while Lynch et al. (2013) reported only 16 Imperial Shag nests here in 2010/11. A rough estimate was made of ~3100 pairs of Chinstrap Penguin present on Sterneck and Midas Islands in Jan 1987, and 450 breeding pairs Gentoo Penguin were counted on Sterneck Island at the same time (Poncet & Poncet 1987). More recently, 3305 pairs of Gentoo Penguin were recorded on Sterneck Island in 2010/11, and only 16 pairs and 685 pairs of Chinstrap Penguin on Sterneck and Midas islands respectively in the same season (Lynch et al. 2013). A further 1041 pairs of Gentoo Penguin were recorded in 1995/96, nesting on snow-free areas of a north-west facing hillside at Cierva Point (Quintana et al. 2000). These authors reported the breeding birds at Cierva Point include 1168 pairs of Wilson's Storm-petrel, 62 pairs of Kelp Gull, 24 pairs of Antarctic Tern (Sterna vittata), seven pairs of Cape Petrel (Daption capense), four pairs of Snowy Sheathbill (Chionis albus) and one pair of Snow Petrel (Pagodroma nivea). In the late 1980s, 135 breeding pairs of Southern Giant Petrel (Macronectes giganteus) were recorded nesting on both Moss and Sterneck islands (Patterson et al. 2008).

Penguin, shag and Southern Giant Petrel colonies may have since decreased in size: the ASPA No. 134 Management Plan (2006) noted 2050 pairs of Chinstrap and 1500 pairs of Gentoo penguins breed across the entire IBA, along with around 45 pairs of Southern Giant Petrel and around 30 pairs of Imperial Shag. The Management Plan further noted that ~2300 pairs of Wilson's Storm-petrel breed in the area, along with more than 100 pairs of Antarctic Tern, 375 pairs of Kelp Gull and more than 50 pairs of Cape Petrel.

Non-bird biodiversity: None reported, although various species of marine mammal are likely to be found in the vicinity.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Cierva Point and offshore islands. Downloaded from on 04/12/2023.