Haswell Island

Country/territory: Antarctica

IBA criteria met: A4ii, A4iii (2015)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 501 ha

Site description (2015 baseline)

Haswell Island is the main island in the Haswell Islands group, situated at the eastern limit of Macdonald Bay in the Davis Sea, ~3 km north from Mabus Point, Queen Mary Land. The island is roughly circular, ~1 km in diameter, and comprises several rocky knolls rising to a maximum elevation of 93 m.

Haswell Island and adjacent sea ice was specially protected in 1975 because of the presence of large numbers of eight breeding bird species, including Antarctic Petrel (Thalassoica antarctica), Southern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialoides), Cape Petrel (Daption capense), Snow Petrel (Pagodroma nivea), Wilson's Storm-petrel (Oceanites oceanicus), South Polar Skua (Catharacta maccormicki), Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) and Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) (ASPA No. 127 Management Plan 2011).

The IBA qualifies on the basis of the Emperor Penguin colony and also qualifies on the basis of more than 10 000 seabirds present. The IBA comprises all of Haswell Island and a marine component encompassing the area within which the Emperor Penguins typically breed on sea ice. The IBA coincides with the boundary of ASPA No. 127.

The nearest permanent station is Mirny (RUS), ~3 km to the south on Mabus Point.

Key biodiversity

Emperor Penguins breed on fast ice that typically forms to the east and southeast of Haswell Island. Approximately 3247 Emperor Penguins were present in 2009 as estimated from satellite imagery, although image quality was poor (Fretwell et al . 2012). A mean of 4365 (SD=579) breeding pairs since 1981 was reported by Barbraud et al. (2011). Approximately 13 000 adults were recorded present during egg-laying in 2010 (ASPA No. 127 Management Plan 2011). Earlier counts estimated ~9000 breeding pairs in 1962 (Pryor 1968) and ~8500 pairs in 1970 (unpublished, cited in Woehler 1993; see note in Table 141.1). Barbraud et al. (2011) document a dramatic decline in the emperor population at Haswell Island and Pointe Géologie from around the mid-1970s, which they attribute largely to significant shifts in the sea ice regime and related changes in prey availability.

Adélie Penguins breed over much of Haswell Island. Snow Petrel and Wilson's Storm-petrel breed mainly on the eastern and southeastern coasts. Antarctic Petrel, Southern Fulmar and Cape Petrel breed along the northern and eastern coastlines. South Polar Skuas are widely distributed on the island, with the majority of nests close to the Adélie Penguin colony (ASPA No. 127 Management Plan 2011).

The number of birds breeding at Haswell Island are summarised in Table 141.1. Other non-breeding bird species recorded at the island include Chinstrap Penguin ( Pygoscelis antarctica ), Macaroni Penguin ( Eudyptes chrysolophus ), Southern Giant Petrel ( Macronectes giganteus ), Pomarine Jaeger (Skua) ( Stercorarius pomarinus ), Brown Skua ( Catharacta antarctica ) and Kelp Gull ( Larus dominicanus ). Pryor's (1968) detailed account of birds on Haswell Island provides a useful baseline against which to compare contemporary surveys of the status of breeding seabirds on Haswell Island.

Non-bird biodiversity: Minke Whales (Balaenoptera sp.), Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) and Weddell Seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) are frequently observed in the vicinity. Other Antarctic seal species are observed only rarely.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Haswell Island. Downloaded from on 04/12/2023.