Country/territory: Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A4i, A4ii, A4iii (2006)
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Area: 2,545 ha
Site description (baseline)
New Island has a length of 8 miles (13 km) and an average width of 0·5 miles (0.75 km). In section, the island is wedge shaped, the western and northern coasts rising dramatically to form a formidable coastline of cliffs. In contrast, the eastern coasts are lower lying and gently sloped, comprising rocky shores and sandy bays. The island was formerly heavily grazed and in some places has suffered considerable erosion. Landsend Bluff consists of two large bluffs lying off the north-western point of New Island, both of which have an elevation of around 100 m. The bluffs are deeply fissured and provide cliff nesting habitat for colonial seabirds. Beef Island lies almost 1.2 miles (2 km) east of the New Island settlement. It is generally dome shaped with very steep slopes on the south-eastern side and rises to around 50 m. Much of the island is thickly covered with Tussac, with the exception of a small area of heathland and low grasses on the north-eastern point. Coffin Island is about 0.6 miles (1 km) north-east of South End Camp, New Island. It is dome-shaped, with very steep sides above cliffs, which rise to around 50 m. The higher elevations are dominated by heath and grassland, while the summit at 122 m has cushion plants on very thin soils and exposed rocks. On the steep coastal slopes, a fringe of Tussac remains. North Island lies 1.5 miles (2.5 km) offshore from the northern point of New Island and is just under 1.7 miles (2.75 km) in length and 0.3 miles (0.5 km) in width. The western coast is dominated by cliffs, which peak at 70 m and are often undercut at sea level. Most of the island is covered by Tussac, with the exception of a central interior plateau, which is oceanic heathland, with Balsam-bog and Bluegrass. Saddle Island is located roughly equidistant between New Island and North Island. It has sheer cliffs up to about 75 m on the western and eastern coasts but has a sheltered sandy bay facing south-east. Much of the island is covered with dense but fairly low Tussac 1.5–2 m tall. There are two shallow ponds in the centre of the saddle, which are thought to dry out in the summer. Ship Island in Ship Harbour is a low hummock reaching a height of no more than 15 m and is only 400 m from New Island. Cliff Knob Island is only 400 m to the south-east of Sabina Point, New Island North. It is a steep-sided domed islet no more than 15 m high and covered in Tussac, much eroded in the lower part by burrows. It is unlikely to have been grazed.
The New Island group is considered to be one of the finest wildlife areas in the Falklands, with at least 46 species breeding or probably breeding, and very large populations of colonial nesting seabirds. It is probably the world’s most important breeding ground for the Thin-billed Prion. The colony of Black-browed Albatrosses on North Island was devastated by fire from a lightning strike in January 1988. It has since recovered to a population of about 17,700 pairs in 2000. New Island has a breeding population of Falkland Skuas numbering several hundred. There are a few pairs of Macaroni Penguins but they do not qualify the site as they are probably not breeding. Birds of prey include Peregrine Falcons, Southern Caracaras, Variable Hawks, Turkey Vultures and Short-eared Owls. New Island North has one or two pairs of King Penguins with Gentoos and a colony of about 50 pairs of Southern Giant Petrels. Dark-faced Ground-tyrants are widespread and common but other songbirds are uncommon.
Non-bird biodiversity: New Island has one of the Falklands most important breeding locations for South American Fur Seals at Landsend Bluff, with an estimated total population of about 2,500 animals. The islands in this group are also breeding grounds for a small number of Southern Sea Lions. Endemic plants include Lady’s Slipper Calceolaria fothergillii, Vanilla Daisy Leucheria suaveolens, Coastal Nassauvia Nassauvia gaudichaudii, Snake Plant Nassauvia serpens, Woolly Falkland Ragwort Senecio littoralis, and Smooth Falkland Ragwort Senecio vaginatus. Other interesting plants are Whitlowgrass Draba funiculosa, Tufted Azorella Azorella monantha and Yellow Orchid Gavilea littoralis. New Island (North Harbour), Coffin and Beef Islands have populations of an unidentified purslane (Calandrinia), possibly a new endemic plant.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: New Island Group. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/20860 on 03/06/2023.