Ascension Island

Birding Ascension Island

Ascension Island is an isolated volcanic island in the equatorial waters of the South Atlantic Ocean, around a thousand miles from the coast of Africa and 1400 miles from the coast of South America, which is roughly midway between the horn of South America and Africa. It is primarily a military base, but access has recently improved and the island makes a fascinating destination for seabird enthusiasts. The islands used to be home to many breeding seabirds; most are now all but extinct on the main island, and the main breeding site is on nearby rat-free Boatswain Bird Island.

Over 10,000 birds breed on this tiny island, which is home to Ascension Frigatebirds, Red-footed, Brown and Masked Boobies, Red-billed and White-tailed Tropicbirds (known as Boatswain Birds), and petrels. The Sooty Tern, known locally as the Wideawake Tern because of its distinctive call, is the most common breeding seabird on the main island, and the airport is named after it. The Ascension Rail is extinct.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 90

Useful Reading

  • A Guide to the Birds of St Helena and Ascension Island

    | By Neil McCulloch | RSPB | 2004 | Paperback | 92 Pages, Colour Illustrations | ISBN: 9781901930467 Buy this book from
  • St Helena and Ascension Island: A Natural History

    | by Philip & Myrtle Ashmole | Anthony Nelson | 2000 | Hardback | 475 pages, 32 pp colour illustrations, line drawings, maps, diagrams, cased | ISBN: 9780904614619 Buy this book from
  • African Bird Club - Ascension Island

    Lying in the equatorial South Atlantic, Ascension Island is a UK Overseas Territory and a dependency of the "neighbouring" island of St Helena. Although it is primarily a military base, access has recently improved and the island makes a fascinating destination for seabird enthusiasts...

Abbreviations Key

  • Ascension Island Ocean Sanctuary

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    Given Ascension's globally significant marine biodiversity, the RSPB is calling for the creation of an Ocean Sanctuary around the island to protect its rich waters. This is one of the only opportunities for a large-scale and fully-protected marine area anywhere in the tropical Atlantic. Unlike the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the neglected Atlantic currently has no large and fully-protected marine reserves.
  • IBA Boatswain Bird Island

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    Boatswain Bird Island, also spelt Boatswainbird Island, is a small island some 270 m off the east coast of Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean with an area of approximately 5.3 ha (13 acres). It is administered from Georgetown on Ascension, which is part of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. Boatswain Bird Island should not be confused with the nearby, much smaller, Boatswain Bird Rock. The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International as a breeding site for seabirds. Birds for which the IBA is significant include Madeiran storm petrels (1500 breeding pairs), red-billed tropicbirds (500 pairs), white-tailed tropicbirds (1000 pairs), Ascension frigatebirds (6000 pairs), masked boobies (1300 pairs) and black noddies (5000 pairs).

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