Heard Island and McDonald Islands are isolated sub-Antarctic islands located in the southern Indian Ocean. These islands are known for their unique and diverse wildlife, with a significant population of birds.
The isolation of Heard Island and McDonald Islands has led to the evolution of various endemic bird species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The pristine environment of these islands has made them ideal habitats for birds, making them an important location for birdwatching and conservation efforts.
In this article, we will explore the different bird species found in Heard Island and McDonald Islands and their unique characteristics.
1. Wilson's storm petrel
Wilson's storm petrel is a small seabird of the Oceanitidae family. A circumpolar species, it can be found in both northern and southern hemispheres during summertime.
It has an abundance population estimated to be around 20 million birds as of 2022 making it one of the most populous bird species on Earth.
This nocturnal creature loves to feed on crustaceans, fish eggs and larval fishes that they catch while flying at night over open waters near coasts or islands.
During daylight hours Wilson’s Storm Petrel will rest in large groups and form colonies with fellow members for protection against predators like gulls and skuas which steal their food supplies if given opportunity.Scientific classification:
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2. Black-browed Albatross
The Black-browed Albatross is a majestic seabird that belongs to the albatross family known as Diomedeidae.
It is an impressive bird, with its black beak and brow contrasting against white plumage on its wings and body.
The most widespread and common member of this group, it can often be seen flying around oceans in different parts of the world.
These birds share many features with other members of their order Procellariiformes, such as shearwaters, fulmars, storm petrels and diving petrels; they all have long wingspans for gliding effortlessly above water surfaces.
They feed mainly by scavenging or hunting small fish near sea surface while flying low over waters.
Its population has unfortunately declined due to commercial fishing vessels which attract them closer to shore resulting in entanglement into fishing nets leading them towards mortality.Scientific classification:
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3. Antarctic tern
The Antarctic tern is a seabird in the Laridae family. It inhabits southern oceans, small islands around Antarctica and mainland coasts.
This stocky bird has similar features to its relative Arctic Tern but can be identified by its breeding plumage of white feathers with black markings on head, wings and tail.
Its diet mainly consists of fish, crustaceans and other marine animals which it catches during dives or while hovering over water surface.
The Antarctic terns breed between October-March when they congregate near coastal areas where they can find plenty of food for themselves as well as their young ones.
These birds make impressive long distance travels each year back to the same locations making them true ocean wanderers.Scientific classification:
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4. Cape petrel
The Cape petrel is a seabird from the Procellariidae family that lives in the Southern Ocean. It is the only species of its genus and has many allies, including fulmarine petrels and giant petrels.
This species is abundant with an estimated population of around two million individuals. Its plumage consists mainly of dark grey on top and white underneath, making it easily identifiable when flying overhead or perched atop rocks along shorelines.
They usually feed at night while searching for fish, crustaceans, squid and other marine life near surface waters using their strong sense of smell to find prey in low light conditions.
Cape Petrels are often seen gathering into large flocks as they migrate between Antarctic seas during winter months before returning home to breed during summertime where they form large colonies along coastlines throughout southern oceans such as New Zealand's South Island coasts.Scientific classification:
|Genus||Daption Stephens, 1826|
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5. Gentoo penguin
Gentoo penguins are an iconic species of birds found in the Falkland Islands. They have a distinctive black and white plumage, with a bright orange beak and feet.
The gentoo is one of three closely related species—the Adélie Penguin (P. adeliae) and chinstrap penguin (P. antarcticus)—and they can all be seen co-existing in their natural habitat near open water or on ice shelves around Antarctica, including the South Shetlands, Orkneys, South Georgia islands, Kerguelen Islands and Macquarie Island to name just a few places.
This sociable bird is known for its loud call which sounds like “gentooooo”; it also makes other vocalizations such as honks during courtship displays.
Gentoos prefer to live in large colonies but will often nest alone or form small groups when needed.
With climate change having an increasingly negative effect on Antarctic habitats these days it's more important than ever that we protect this fascinating animal so future generations may enjoy them too.Scientific classification:
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6. Light-mantled Albatross
The Light-mantled Albatross is a small seabird found in the genus Phoebetria. It has a grey mantle and sooty feathers, which gives it its name.
They are usually seen skimming close to the surface of the ocean, occasionally taking short flights over long distances.
This bird can be found flying near offshore islands or along coastlines around parts of South America, New Zealand and Australia's southern coasts.
The diet mostly consists of squid and fish they catch while gliding above water surfaces.
Their breeding season begins at late August where pairs build nests on slopes located within remote areas with dense vegetation cover like grasslands or shrubbery patches that provides protection from predators for their young ones until fledging takes place after three months since hatching occurs during November-December period when winds become stronger making takeoff easier for chicks upon maturity as adults reach up about 75cm in length with wingspans more than 170 cm wide.Scientific classification:
7. Salvin's prion
Salvin's prion is a small seabird belonging to the petrel family Procellariidae. It makes up one of two species within the genus Pachyptila, also known as 'prions', and can mainly be found in waters around New Zealand, Australia and South America.
Its diet consists mostly of zooplankton but it has been known on occasion to feed on fish eggs or even small fish.
The bird often travels in flocks along coastlines and feeds close to shore due its preference for shallow water feeding grounds made available by tides.
With their distinctive white underside contrasted with grey-black upper feathers they are unmistakeable when seen at sea.Scientific classification:
8. Eastern rockhopper penguin
The Eastern Rockhopper Penguin is a unique species of crested penguin. It has yellow crest feathers, pink margins around its bill and is one of the smallest crested penguins found in subantarctic regions and the Indian Ocean.
The bird's diet consists mostly of krill, squid, fish and other crustaceans which it finds near rocks or reefs close to shorelines.
Its habitat ranges from tropical islands to cold climates such as those encountered on Antarctic coasts.
They are social birds who form colonies for breeding purposes and often mate with the same partner year after year returning back to their nesting grounds each season.
When not mating they can be seen porpoising through waves while searching for food during daytime when visibility underwater improves significantly due to sunlight streaming down into waters below surface levels making them easier prey targets than at night time when darkness makes hunting more difficult.Scientific classification:
|Subspecies||E. c. filholi|
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9. Common diving petrel
The common diving petrel is a small bird that lives in the southern oceans. It is often mistaken for an auk due to its similar appearance.
These birds are native to several islands including those in the South Atlantic and Southern Indian Oceans, as well as islands off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand.
They are excellent divers, as their name suggests, and are able to dive deep into the water to catch their prey.
Despite their small size, these birds are hardy and are able to withstand the harsh conditions of their habitat. Their populations are stable, thanks to measures taken to protect their breeding grounds.
Overall, the common diving petrel is a fascinating bird that can be found in some of the most remote and rugged parts of the world.Scientific classification:
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10. Black-faced sheathbill
The black-faced sheathbill, also known as the lesser sheathbill or paddy bird, is a species of terrestrial scavengers found on subantarctic islands. They are short-necked birds with white plumage and black bills.
They have caruncles and facial skin. This species is around 38-41 cm in length and 74-79 cm in wingspan. The black-faced sheathbill is one of only two species of sheathbills, which are considered as aberrant shorebirds.Scientific classification:
11. Fulmar prion
The Fulmar prion is a species of seabird primarily found in the southern oceans. Its bill is distinctive, resembling a saw, which is where its common name, "prion," comes from.
The term "fulmar" in its name means "foul-gull." The Fulmar prion was previously classified under a now-obsolete genus called Fulmariprion, derived from combining its name with the word "prion." As a member of the Procellariidae family, this bird is adapted for life at sea, using its wings to soar over the ocean's surface in search of prey.
Despite being a seabird, the Fulmar prion's survival is threatened by human activities, such as overfishing and pollution, which can lead to habitat loss and food scarcity.Scientific classification: