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Antarctica

Albatross
Grey-headed Albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma ©Glenn Bartley Website

Birding Antarctica

Antarctica used to be thought of as a frozen wasteland where nothing lived or grew and which was too cold for anything to survive. Now it is recognised as one of the last great wildernesses which needs protection from exploitation or its very delicate eco-systems will topple. The cold waters abound with micro-organisms and tiny crustacea such as krill that attract higher animals. The bird life can be impressive and abundant in places and, of course, the penguins are a sight to behold. The following introduction was supplied in February 2002.

Introduction:
Most people know Antarctica as a bitterly cold wasteland with nothing but rock and ice. Antarctic however, has a rich and diverse spread of animal life, the best known of which are the penguins and whales. The cold Antarctic waters provide a nutrient rich environment which sustains a long and complex food chain, the basis of which is plankton and krill.

Getting there:
Antarctic was less then 200 years ago, and getting to Antarctica remains a challenge today. The two main gateways to the frozen continent are Ushuaia, Argentina and Christchurch, New Zealand. Ushuaia is the closest with a distance of 1000km from the Antarctic Peninsula. Due to its proximity and the wealth of animal life in the Peninsula, Ushuaia is Antarctica's biggest tourist hub. Being in the Tierra del Fuego makes it a good spot for birders to start spotting.

Birding:
A typical tourist voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula involves a ship voyage in the open sea from Ushuaia down the Beagle Channel and across the Drake Passage (2 days). This part of the voyage is lost to most visitors, but to birders it is a great opportunity to spot species like kelp gulls, terns, shearwaters, cormorants, petrels, prions, albatross (mainly Royal, Wandering, Black Browed and Grey Headed); fulmars etc.

Once in the Peninsula, one can get up close to several of these species particularly during landings to various islands or the continent itself. Penguins colonies are particularly popular with tourists allowing one to get to within 3 meters (IAATO rules) of the animals. The most commonly sighted species of bird sighted by tourists during landings are penguins (Adelie, Gentoo, Chinstrap, and sometimes Emperor, rockhopper and Macaroni); Sheathbills and Skua.

Other Animals:
Other animals that one should look out for are seals (Leopard, Weddel, Crabeater etc); and whales (Fin, Humpback, Killer, Minke, Southern Right etc).

Tour Information:
Since Antarctica is given special environmental protection by international law, tourism is a topic of much debate. Tourism in Antarctica is overseen by Members of IAATO who comply to strict rules and standards which are aimed at making tourist visits to Antarctica as environmentally friendly as possible. You can find information various tours to Antarctica with relevant info about the tour and operators, here.

Contributor

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist of Bouvet Island (sub-antarctic Norwegian dependency)

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

iGoTerra Checklist for Antarctica

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

iGoTerra Checklist for French Southern Territories

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

iGoTerra Checklist for South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife

(The Birds and Marine Mammals of the Antarctic Continent and the Southern Ocean) | By Hadoram Shirihai & Brett Jarrett | A & C Black | 2007 (Edition 2) | Hardback | 544 pages, 920 photos, 35 plates |

ISBN: 9780713664065

Buy this book from NHBS.com

A Field Guide to the Wildlife of South Georgia

Edited by Robert Burton & John Croxall | WILDGuides | 2012 | Paperback | 200 pages, 368 colour photos, 1 colour map |

ISBN: 9780691156613

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and Antarctic Peninsula

(The Falkland Islands and South Georgia) | By E Couve and C Vidal | Fantastico Sur | 2003 | Paperback | 656 pages, 200 colour photos, distrib maps |

ISBN: 9568007040

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Southern South America and Antarctica

By Martín R de la Peña, Maurice Rumboll, Gustavo Carrizo, Aldo A Chiappe, Luis Huber & Jorge R Rodriguez Mata | Princeton University Press | 2001 | Paperback | 304 pages, 97 plates with colour illustrations, 5 plates with b/w illustrations; b/w illustrations, 1000+ b/w distribution maps |

ISBN: 0691090351

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

Facts

47 Bird Species; 1 Endemic.

Organisations

ASOC - Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition

Website

Founded in 1978, ASOC is the only non-governmental organisation working full time to preserve the Antarctic continent and its surrounding Southern Ocean. A coalition of over 30 NGOs interested in Antarctic environmental protection, ASOC represents the environmental community at Antarctic governance meetings and works to promote important Antarctic conservation goals.

British Antarctic Survey

Website

Our Vision is to be a world-leading centre for polar science and polar operations, addressing issues of global importance and helping society adapt to a changing world.

International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO)

Website

A member organisation founded in 1991 to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic.

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

Antarctic Specially Protected Area

Information

An Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) is an area on the continent of Antarctica, or on nearby islands, which is protected by scientists and several different international bodies. The protected areas were established in 1961 under the Antarctic Treaty System, which governs all the land and water south of 60 latitude and protects against human development. A permit is required for entry into any ASPA site. The ASPA sites are protected by the governments of Australia, New Zealand, United States, United Kingdom, Chile, France, Argentina, Poland, Russia, Norway, Japan, India, Italy, and Republic of Korea. There are 72 sites.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Ecotours

Tour Operator

Please contact us for details of Antarctic and Arctic birding cruises. Birding Ecotours aims to provide world-wide birding experiences of superb quality, while contributing to environmental conservation and disadvantaged communities. Please contact us for detailed information, queries and quotations as we are happy to help you in every aspect of planning your birding holiday.

International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO)

Tour Operator

IAATO is a member organization founded in 1991 to advocate, promote and practice safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic…

Rockjumper

Tour Operator

South African company with a worldwide remit offering trips to Antarctica…

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2014 [01 January] - Andrew Whittaker - Antarctica, South Georgia & Falklands

PDF Report

Our 2014 cruise to our planet’s final frontier, Antarctica, was absolutely outstanding! I was thrilled to return to this magical continent and two spectacular islands (after almost 20 years). Topping this, though, was being able to share this mind-boggling experience with a fantastic group of people....

2014 [04 April] - Simon Cook

PDF Report

...The long journey to Tristan da Cunha via Stanley, Falkland Islands* (Cattle Egret, Magellanic Penguin, Turkey Vulture, Southern Caracara and Variable Hawk) brought many more seabirds, including our first Sooty, Atlantic Yellow-nosed and Tristan Albatrosses, Great, Sooty and Sub-Antarctic Little Shearwaters, Slenderbilled Prion, Atlantic, Soft-plumaged, Grey, Spectacled and Great-winged Petrels, Broad-billed Prion, South Polar Skua, White-faced and White-bellied Storm-Petrels plus Long-tailed Skua. Marine mammals included Hourglass, Dusky and Peale’s Dolphins...

2014 [12 December] - Kristian Stahl & Roger Holmberg

PDF Report

A since long planned trip to the Antarctic finally starts. We are all in all eight Swedes from various parts of the country who decided to make this trip. Due to private reasons, one of the original eight did not participate. Roger and myself start the trip to Ushuaia...

2015 [02 February] - Andrew Spencer - The Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica

PDF Report

2015 [04 April] - Simon Cook - Atlantic Odyssey

PDF Report

Once out in the Drake Passage the first of many species of seabirds were seen, such as Wandering, Southern Royal, Black-browed, Grey-headed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Southern Fulmar, Sooty Shearwater and Blue, Cape and Mottled Petrel.

2015 [12 December] - Wildwings

PDF Report

The Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula

2016 [01 January] - Michael O'Brien

PDF Report

Our January 2016 cruise to the end of the earth was an exciting adventure, full of amazing wildlife sightings, some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, incredibly informative and entertaining lectures by a talented Zegrahm Expeditions staff, and a cheerful bunch of fellow travelers. As can be expected with such an ambitious cruise, there were a few bumps in the road, resulting in an altered itinerary, but the trip was an amazing success by any standard...

2016 [02 February] - Peregrine Rowse

PDF Report

It has been a dream of mine to go to the Antarctic for longer than I can remember. It owed more to Scott than Attenborough. The ‘we’ in this report is my wife, brother, sister in law and me. They are civilians; I was the only birder. There are of course many reports, mainly from bird tour companies, covering this route but I hope the comments below may be helpful to you in deciding if to go, when to go, where to go and how to go...

2016 [03 March] - Simon Cook - Atlantic Odyssey

PDF Report

...Very good weather meant a very productive time at South Georgia. Several landings were made and birds included Wilson’s and Black-bellied Storm-petrel, Antarctic Prion, Antarctic Tern, White-chinned Petrel, SG Pintail, SG Pipit and SG Shag. Colonies of King, Macaroni, Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguin were seen, as were nesting Wandering, Grey-headed and Black-browed Albatross but Light-mantled Sooty Albatross was only seen in flight. Both species of Giant-Petrel were seen at very close range ashore; as was Pale-faced Sheathbill and Brown Skua...

2016 [12 December] - Dušan Brinkhuizen - The Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctica

PDF Report

...Out of the crowds, we regularly picked out a “big boy”, the spectacular Southern Royal Albatross, of which we saw at least twenty. Slender-billed Prions started to appear in small numbers during the course of the day, and we also got our first Cape Petrels and Great Shearwaters. ....

2016 [12 December] - János Oláh

PDF Report

All reports describe the amazing experience to be had on this tour! However, even with expectations so high it never dissapoints. It is an outstanding and uplifting feeling to witness the wildlife spectacle of this largely unspoilt part of the World.

2016 [12 December] - Karen Worcester

PDF Report

...I was on the second boat to shore for Sea Lion Island. This gave me lots of time to mingle with the Gentoo Penguin, who were interested and welcoming, walking past in groups of six or ten coming to or from a swim.

2017 [01 January] - Brian Gibbons - Antarctica, South Georgia & The Falklands

PDF Report

... The Falklands and South Georgia provided unrivaled wildlife spectacles only after we enjoyed fantastic pelagic birding and a few cetaceans along the way. Elephant Seals, thousands of penguins, Shag Rocks, and point-blank views of Black-browed Albatross nesting colonies were some of the highlights burned into our memories as we navigated these remote islands...

2017 [12 December] - Chris Lotz

PDF Report

What an incredible journey of a lifetime! The scenery was unbelievably spectacular. The birds were wonderful and included seven penguin species, Snow Petrel, many albatrosses including the most majestic of all, Wandering Albatross, along with the sleek, beautiful Light-mantled Albatross, and some rare, localised terrestrial birds such as South Georgia Pipit and Cobb’s Wren, and then of course all the sought-after birds of southernmost South America (Tierra del Fuego) such as Magellanic Woodpecker and the tricky White-bellied Seedsnipe.

2017 [12 December] - Greg Smith

PDF Report

Annotated List

2017 [12 December] - Holly Faithfull

PDF Report

Rockjumper’s Classic Antarctica II adventure started in Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world. Late afternoon we boarded the Akademik Ioffe, a Russian research vessel, and our wonderfully stable home for this adventure to the south.

Blogs

Jim Wilson - Jim Wilson's Antarctic Blog

BLOG

This winter [2007-2008] spent six weeks in and around the Antarctic Peninsula.

Other Links

Antarctic Birds

Webpage

"First you fall in love with Antarctica, and then it breaks your heart." — Kim Stanley Robinson, first line of his book Antarctica...

Antarctic Birds

Website

Systematic List

Antarctica Wildlife

Website

Snow Petrels Pagodroma nivea

Webpage

Snow petrels are pure white birds with black beaks and eyes. They are the size of a pigeon and arguably the most beautiful of all the Antarctic birds…

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Glenn Bartley

Gallery

World class photos from South Georgia