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 Bird Island, South Georgia

Bird Island

Position:   54°00' S, 38°03' W, Jordan Cove, Bird Island, South Georgia.

Location Temp Wind spd Wind Dir Time Date
Bird Island 4.7 °C 09 knots 240 deg 00:00 2004/3/24

Chief activities:   Population biology, ecosystem dynamics and behaviour of seabirds, penguins and seals.

Occupied:   Intermittently between 1958 and 1982, continuously 22 September 1982 to the present.

New project - A groundbreaking migratory pattern study is to be undertaken in mid April, this project will see the use of state of the art technology to try to better understand the perculiarities of the king of the penguins - the Emporer. Led by Norweigian penguin expert Dr Loof Lirpa a group of 10 students and volunteers will spend approximately 3 months monitoring the behavior of the flightless birds. Biologists and naturalists worldwide will be waiting with baited breath for the new findings.

Bird Island lies off the north-west tip of South Georgia. The island's northern coast consists mainly of sheer cliffs rising to 365 metres; the southern coast is more accessible with numerous beaches. The island is 5 km long, up to 800 m wide. Below 150 metres it is predominately covered in tussock grass with rock, scree and mosses above this altitude. There is no permanent snow or ice on the island; the yearly temperature range is from -10°C to 10°C.

The first permanent hut at Bird Island was established in 1958 by the Falkland Islands Government. A living hut and two further small huts were added in 1963 by the United States Antarctic Research Programme. BAS has supported summer work on the populations of birds and seals since 1971. A new hut on concrete piers was built in 1981-82 which provided accommodation, laboratory and office space for up to 8 people for year-round occupation.

The 1995-96 summer saw the start of a two-summer programme to bring the facilities at Bird Island up to a standard comparable to the other BAS stations. Part of the improvements involved a better water collection and treatment system. The research station comprises three main buildings with living accommodation, office and laboratory space for up to eight people. Around the island there are several field huts situated near bird colonies to aid the science programmes. Six to eight people usually work at the station during the summer and four remain for the winter. The station is serviced by the two BAS ships, RRS James Clark Ross and RRS Ernest Shackleton , three times per year.

Bird Island has a rich diversity of wildlife and is afforded special protection as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is home to about 50,000 breeding pairs of penguins, 30,000 pairs of albatrosses, 700,000 nocturnal petrels and 65,000 breeding fur seals. In total, that amounts to one bird or seal for every 1.5 m 2 making Bird Island one of the richest sites for wildlife anywhere in the world.

The main research programmes on Bird Island concern seabird and seal population dynamics, feeding ecology and reproductive performance. Long-term monitoring studies contribute to international environmental conservation objectives, including under the CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Programme.


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