Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP Breeding Site No. 87. Stinker Point, Elephant Island, South Shetland Islands supports a healthy population of Southern Giant Petrels

Elephant Island is part of the South Shetlands Island group in Maritime Antarctica and is located in the outer reaches of the archipelago, approximately 245 km north-east of the Antarctic Peninsula.  Stinker Point is located on the south-western coast of Elephant Island. The area consists of 4.3 km of coastline, comprising 13 narrow sandy beaches divided by steep rocky walls.  Plateau areas with large fields of the moss Sanionia uncinata and scree-covered areas also occur.

View of one of Stinker Point's beaches from the South Plateau

View from the North Plateau and a small breeding group of Southern Giant Petrels

A Southern Giant Petrel colony at Stinker Point. Across the water are Gibbs and Clarence Islands, photograph by Uwe Horst Schulz 

Throughout the austral summer Stinker Point’s plateaus and beaches remain ice-free, allowing many seabirds and marine mammals to utilize the area for breeding.  The area has been monitored since 1985 by Brazilian researchers from the Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos.

The Southern Giant Petrel or “stinker” Macronectes giganteus is the only ACAP-listed species that breeds at Stinker Point, named after the species.  Two major colonies (North Plateau and South Plateau) and some single nests comprise the population of Southern Giant Petrels over a total area of 5.0 ha.  Both colonies are located on plateaus up to 75 m high from where the birds can easily take off. The breeding ground is irregular with gentle slopes surrounded by a mixed field of mosses, lichens, grasses and scree sediments. Most nests are constructed from pebbles and moss.

Southern Giant Petrels breeding at Stinker Point

Ground censuses made in the austral summers from 2009/10 to 2012/13 indicate an average population of 903 breeding pairs. The last count (November 2012) was of 930 breeding pairs. Even though the numbers from 2009 and 2012 are similar, the population showed inter-annual variation among the sampled years.

A comparison with earlier censuses made during the mid-1980s and early 1990s shows that the population has increased since then (in 1971 the population was assessed as 295 pairs).

BirdLife International has designated Stinker Point as an Important Bird Area (ANT033), notably for its Chinstrap Penguin Pygoscelis antarctica population.

Photographs by Maria Virginia Petry & Uwe Horst Schulz.

With thanks to Patricia Pereira Serafini.

Selected Literature:

Colabuono, F.I., Vander Pol, S.S., Huncik, K.M., Satie, T., Petry, M.V., Kucklick, J.R. & Montone, R.C. 2016. Persistent organic pollutants in blood samples of Southern Giant Petrels (Macronectes giganteus) from the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. Environmental Pollution 216: 38-45.

Harris, C.M., Lorenz, K., Fishpool, L.D.C., Lascelles, B., Cooper, J., Coria, N.R., Croxall, J.P., Emmerson, L.M., Fijn, R., Fraser, W.L., Jouventin, P., LaRue, M.A., Le Maho, Y., Lynch, H.J., Naveen, R., Patterson-Fraser, D.L., Peter, H.-U., Poncet, S., Phillips, R.A., Southwell, C.J., van Franeker, J.A., Weimerskirch, H., Wienecke, B. & Woehler, E.J. 2015. Important Bird Areas in Antarctica 2015.  Cambridge: BirdLife International and Environmental Research & Assessment Ltd.  302 pp.

Patterson, D.L., Woehler, E.J., Croxall, J.P., Cooper, J., Poncet, S., Peter, H.-U., Hunter, S. & Fraser, M.W. 2008. Breeding distribution and population status of the Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli and Southern Giant Petrel M. giganteus.  Marine Ornithology 36: 115-124 & appendix.

Petry, M.V. 1994. Aves reprodutoras em Stinker Point, Arquipélago das South Shetlands. MSc Thesis, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre.  275 pp.

Schulz, U.H., Krüger, L. & Petry, M.V. 2014. Southern Giant Petrel nest attendance patterns under extreme weather conditions. Zoological Science 31: 501-506.

Maria Virginia Petry & Júlia Victória Grohmann Finger, Laboratório de Ornitologia e Animais Marinhos, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, São Leopoldo, Brazil, 07 June 2017