The Falkland Islands and their wildlife

The Falkland Islands and their wildlife

The Falkland Islands is one of the wildlife hotspots on the planet. The islands are home to most of the world’s total population of Black-browed Albatrosses and the numbers of birds seen increases by the hour as one sails to the islands from South America. In the right conditions there can be hundreds of seabirds of several species around the ship as she nears the west of the archipelago. Once onshore it soon becomes obvious that the Falklands is indeed one of the best places in the world to see penguins. Five species of penguin breed on the islands in varying numbers, so that visitors to the islands will get close up views of some of these charismatic birds. 
A typical expedition cruise to the islands will call in at such islands as West Point Island, New Island, Saunders Island and maybe Carcass Island. The latter does not have the large colonies of Black-browed Albatrosses or Rockhopper Penguins of the former three islands, but as it has remained predator free, it is home to a much wider variety of small birds including one of the two endemic bird - the Cobb’s Wren, and the Falkland Steamer Duck.

The high cliffs of the western side of the islands are very scenic in their own right, and are full of breeding albatrosses and penguins plus a variety of waterfowl and a mixture of landbirds including the very colourful Long-tailed Meadowlark known locally as the ‘Military Starling’.

Although the capital Stanley is generally a cultural port call there is still some wildlife to see as one walks along the seafront. This includes Kelp and Dolphin Gulls plus a scattering of Crested Ducks close inshore with the Falkland Steamer Ducks usually frequenting the middle of the harbour. The House Sparrow, from Europe is the most numerous bird species in the capital but there are also Black-chinned Siskins and Falkland Thrushes to look for in the well-manicured gardens with Turkey Vultures often gliding over the town on windy days.

Any excursion away from Stanley should also see good numbers of ducks and geese near any streams or lakes with wading birds such as Magellanic Oystercatcher along any shorelines. There are several penguin colonies near to Stanley with the small colony of Magellanic Penguins at Gypsy Cove and the nearby Gentoo Penguin colony on Yorke Bay being the nearest to Stanley – a ten to fifteen minute drive from the public jetty. 
Generally the islands birdlife is very tolerant of man, usually they will carry on with whatever they are doing and ignore the observer.  Falkland Conservation (the islands wildlife organisation) recommend approach no closer than 6 metres to any bird (or seal) colony, although one can often sit to the side of a penguin colony or their path to the sea and they will come and inspect you.
Although not generally seen by cruise ship visitors except at sea Elephant Seal, Fur Seal and Southern Sea Lion breed on the islands but are not widespread. Elephant Seals can haul out for a short while on almost any sandy beach but are best seen on Sea Lion Island and Carcass Island. Fur Seals are quite rare on the Falklands with only a handful of breeding locations so are generally only encountered at sea. Southern Sea Lions have breeding sites in various sites around the islands with the best-known ones being at Cape Dolphin on East Falkland and on Bleaker Island and Sea Lion Island. 
The Falkland Islands are one of the best places in the world to be truly immersed in wildlife.

Visit the Falkland Islands