Some 30 million birds nest and bring up their young chicks on South Georgia; it is truly nature’s haven in the unrelenting cold gray seas of the often wild and ferocious southern oceans. Some 81 species of birds have been recorded, although 31 species, of which 27 are sea birds, breed at the island. While South Georgia has similar populations of breeding bird species as other sub-Antarctic islands it is home to around half the world’s population of macaroni penguins, grey headed albatrosses, northern giant petrels, white chinned petrels and Antarctic prions, the most numerous seabird species at South Georgia. Most of the world’s population of the South Georgia blue eyed shag live there. The island’s one endemic species is the South Georgia Pipit and can only be found in rat free areas. The South Georgia pintail is a sub species of the yellow-billed pintail duck. Breeding birds include:
- Macaroni penguins amount to about 1 million pairs. They have decreased by 50% over the last 25 years.
- King penguins total over 450,000 breeding pairs. They have increased on average some 5% each year for the past 80 years.
- Gentoo penguins total about 105,000 pairs.
- Chinstrap penguins have about 13,400 breeding pairs.
- Wandering Albatrosses, the largest sea bird in the world breeds biennially with about 4,000 pairs and amount to some 15% of the world’s population.
- Grey-headed albatross breeding pairs total around 80,000 pairs which breed biennially and equate to some 46% of the world’s breeding population.
- Light-mantled sooty albatross breeds biennially with a breeding population of between 5,000 and 8,000 pairs.
- Black-browed albatross amount to around 100,000 breeding pairs.
- Note: All albatross species above except the light-mantled sooty, are in decline. Both the wandering (decline 50% over 20 years) and grey-headed albatrosses are listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN World List with a 10% chance they will be extinct with 100 years.
Petrels and Shearwaters:
- Antarctic prions total around 22 million pairs.
- White-chinned petrels amount to about 2 million pairs.
- South giant petrels have a population of about 5,000 pairs.
- Northern giant petrels are around 3,000 breeding pairs.
- Blue petrel with around 70,000 breeding pairs has declined with loss of tussac grassland habitat because of an increase in Antarctic fur seals.
- Cape petrels, breeding on rock ledges total around 10,000 pairs.
- Snow petrels nesting above 1,000m amount to around 3,000 pairs.
- Fairy prion has about 1,000 breeding pairs.
- Wilson storm petrels are abundant with around 600,000 breeding pairs.
- Black-bellied storm petrel has around 10,000 pairs.
- South Georgia diving petrel amounts to about 50,000 breeding pairs.
- Diving petrel has about 4 million breeding pairs.
Other Breeding Birds:
- South Georgia shag has some 7,500 pairs.
- Brown skua has about 2,000 pairs.
- Kelp gull amounts to about 2,000 pairs.
- Antarctic tern totals some 10,000 pairs.
- Yellow-billed sheathbill amounts to about 2,000 pairs.
- South Georgia pintail duck, endemic, and has about 1,000 pairs.
- Speckled teal has about 10 pairs breeding around Cumberland bay.
- South Georgia pipit, endemic, has a population of between 3 to 4,000 pairs in rat free areas.