Elephant Island is the easternmost of the South Shetland Islands, lying 153 km northeast of King George Island in Bransfield Strait. The IBA comprises an ice free shoreline extending ~2 km and rising to over 250 m located ~2 km west of Cape Lookout. The IBA qualifies on the basis of the concentration of seabirds present (in particular Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica)) present.
Elephant Island is composed of metamorphosed sedimentary rocks and the terrain is largely snow or ice-covered with steep cliffs, narrow beaches, and glacier snouts hugging the shoreline (Allison & Smith 1973). Ice-free habitat suitable for plants and birds is found mainly on coastal headlands, raised marine platforms, intervening valleys and low-lying beaches (Allison & Smith 1973). No meteorological data are available for Elephant Island, although Allison and Smith (1973) recorded a mean daily temperature of 1.4° C with minimum and maximum temperatures of –5° C and 15° C respectively.
There are no research stations in the vicinity, with the nearest facility 180 km to the southwest at King George Island.
Approximately 11 555 breeding pairs of Chinstrap Penguin were present at the western part of the site in 1971 (Croxall & Kirkwood 1979).
Other birds observed in the Elephant Island area include Antarctic Petrel (Thalassoica antarctica), Cape Petrel (Daption capense), Kerguelen Petrel (Lugensa brevirostris), Blue Petrel (Halobaena caerulea), Wilson's Storm-petrel (Oceanites oceanicus), Black-bellied Storm-petrel (Fregetta tropica), Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys), Grey-headed Albatross (Thalassarche chrysostoma), Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata), Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus) and the Snowy Sheathbill (Chionis albus) (Whitehouse & Veit 1994). Of these, Bruce & Furse (1973) recorded ~50 breeding pairs of Snow Petrel (Pagodroma nivea) on the island in 1970/71 (Croxall et al. 1995) and 190 breeding pairs of Brown Skua (Catharacta antarctica) were recorded in 1983 (M. Sanders pers. comm. in Ritz et al. 2006).
Non-bird biodiversity: Naveen (2003) reported that Antarctic Fur Seals (Arctocephalus gazella) and Southern Elephant Seals (Mirounga leonina) regularly haul out at Cape Lookout, 2 km to the east.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Point W of Cape Lookout, Elephant Island. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/10/2020.