Site description (2008 baseline):

Site location and context
Navassa Island IBA is situated 53 km west of Haiti, 136 km east of Jamaica and 152 km south of Cuba. The IBA includes the 500-ha island and marine areas up to 22 km from it, thus covering 147,600 ha of open ocean. Navassa is a small, pearshaped island plateau that rises abruptly from deep water. It is surrounded by a series of submarine coralline terraces. The karst dolomite terrain slopes from the lower north-western edge towards the south-eastern side and supports upland evergreen woodland and sparse shrubby vegetation. The island is surrounded by a submerged coral reef ecosystem and open sea.

Key biodiversity
This IBA is globally significant for its breeding colony of Redfooted Booby Sula sula, a large majority of which are immature, which is concentrated along the sheltered (leeward) north-western to southern perimeter of the island. The breeding population, conservatively estimated at 175 individuals, of Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificensis is regionally important, and small numbers of Brown Booby Sula leucogaster also breed on the island. Hundreds of Near Threatened White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala occur, and the Vulnerable White-necked Crow Corvus leucognaphalus has been recorded on the island, but is probably a transient visitor.

Non-bird biodiversity: The Critically Endangered hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata occurs. Four endemic reptiles are abundant on the island, namely Navassa anole Anolis longiceps, Navassa gecko Aristelliger cochranae, Navassa dwarf gecko Sphaerodactylus becki and the Navassa galliwasp Celestus badius.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
This IBA is federally owned, and is the only oceanic and coral reef national wildlife refuge in the western Atlantic. However, it lacks on-the-ground management due to its remoteness and lack of resident personnel. There is a history of foreign nationals, primarily Haitians, entering the refuge and harvesting protected species. These illegal activities are a challenge: the island’s disputed sovereignty means any move to prosecute could result in a diplomatic incident between the USA and Haiti. Socio-cultural assessments carried out by Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine have shown that Navassa’s fisheries are critical for sustaining the fishing community on the south-western tip of Haiti. A multiagency task force has been created to target management issues and reduce the threats to species and habitats, and USFWS will continue to monitor the island’s seabird colonies and document its use by resident and migratory birds.

Author: Joseph Schwagerl (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and Verónica Anadón-Irizarry (BirdLife International) The authors would like to thank Susan Silander, Claudia Lombard (USFWS), Jean W. Wiener (Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine) and John Curnutt (USDA Forest Service Eastern Region) for contributing to this chapter.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Navassa. Downloaded from on 28/02/2024.