Site description (2006 baseline)
Keppel Island lies approximately 3 miles (5 km) off the north-western coast of West Falkland and peaks at 341 m on Mount Keppel. The land rises steeply from a central valley, forming a ridge along the south-western coast of the island and cliffs to the west and north. There is a wide, flat valley in the centre of the island containing several freshwater lakes, which provide important habitat for waterfowl. To the north-east, the coastline is deeply indented with several sandy beaches and bays and there is a large area of sand dunes. The majority of the island is covered by heathland and Whitegrass associations, with the north-eastern coast having extensive green areas interspersed with Magellanic Penguins’ burrows and frequented by flocks of geese. Coastal Tussac is very limited. Keppel Island is one of the most historic sites in the Falklands. The first long-term settlement in the archipelago and home to the South American Missionary Society was established there in February 1855. It was occupied for 40 years by a group of British missionaries with a small population of Fuegian natives, who ran one of the earliest and most successful agricultural settlements in the Falkands. Activities were increased on islands south of Tierra del Fuego from the 1880s. Keppel was sold to Dean Brothers of Pebble Island in 1911 and continued in use as a sheep farm until 1992.
At total of 38 species was recorded in December 2001, of which 33 were breeding or probably breeding. The first pair of Barn Owls proved to be breeding (2001) on Keppel Island found suitable habitat in the extensive European Gorse and the shearing shed at the settlement, and were apparently feeding solely on the introduced rat population. During a visit in 2003, both Southern Caracaras and Striated Caracaras were noted as present, though not shown to be breeding. Falkland Grass Wrens, White- tufted/Rolland’s Grebes and Black-necked Swans are often seen, especially on or near the ponds in the central valley. Very large numbers of Upland Geese were reported in December 2001 and, from sample counts, it was estimated that more than 3,000 were present. Cobb’s Wrens and Tussacbirds were notably absent during the December 2001 visit, which is consistent with the recorded presence of many rats. The possible presence of petrels has been suggested, from sightings of burrows and traces of petrels. The burrows are most likely those of the numerous rats and the remains of petrels are probably either corpses of storm-driven birds or the prey of Peregrine Falcons or Short-eared Owls. However, the status of nocturnal petrels on the island has not been investigated.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Keppel Island. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/keppel-island-iba-falkland-islands-(malvinas) on 01/12/2023.