McDonald Beach, Cape Bird

Country/territory: Antarctica

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

Area: 269 ha

Site description (2015 baseline)

Cape Bird is situated at the northwestern extremity of Ross Island at the foot of Mount Bird, where a nearby ice free point extends ~10 km along the coast, and includes McDonald Beach and Caughley Beach. Three Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) colonies occupy this coast, known informally as ‘Northern', ‘Middle' and ‘Southern' rookeries.

The IBA qualifies on the basis of the South Polar Skua (Catharacta maccormicki) colony present and the concentration of seabirds (in particular Adélie Penguin) and comprises the ice-free area at McDonald Beach.

The nearest permanent scientific stations are McMurdo (USA) and Scott Base (NZL), situated ~67 km to the south on Hut Point Peninsula, Ross Island.

Key biodiversity

The McDonald Beach colony (‘Southern Rookery') comprises ~13 000 breeding pairs of Adélie Penguin (count approximate, Coats 2010). The mean total count for all three colonies over 30 seasons between 1981 and 2012 was 43 321 breeding pairs, while the most recent count for all three colonies was 75 696 breeding pairs (Lyver et al . 2014).

Approximately 137 breeding pairs of South Polar Skua were estimated at McDonald Beach in 2013-14 (P. Lyver pers. comm. 2015; Wilson et al . in prep.). Spurr, Wilson & Agar (1990) reported ~300 breeding pairs and 300 non-breeders, although these counts covered the entire ice free area at Cape Bird.

The following birds have been recorded as visitors to Cape Bird: Emperor Penguin ( Aptenodytes forsteri ), Chinstrap Penguin ( Pygoscelis antarctica ), Southern Giant Petrel ( Macronectes giganteus ), Southern Fulmar ( Fulmarus glacialoides ), Antarctic Petrel ( Thalassoica antarctica ), Snow Petrel ( Pagodroma nivea ), Wilson's Storm-petrel ( Oceanites oceanicus ), Brown Skua ( Catharacta antarctica ) and Kelp Gull ( Larus dominicanus ) (Spurr, Wilson & Agar 1990).

Non-bird biodiversity: Weddell (Leptonychotes weddellii), Crabeater (Lobodon carcinophagus) and Leopard (Hydrurga leptonyx) seals, as well as Killer Whales (Orcinus orca), have been observed in the area.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: McDonald Beach, Cape Bird. Downloaded from on 04/12/2023.