Birds of Macquarie Island

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Royal penguin on Macquarie Island.

The Birds of Macquarie Island are, unsurprisingly for an isolated oceanic island, predominantly seabirds. By far the majority of the breeding species are penguins, petrels and albatrosses. However, the bird list includes many vagrants, including passerines, from New Zealand and Australia.


Four species of penguin breed on Macquarie Island. The endemic royal penguin has a population estimated at 850,000. There are also 100,000 breeding pairs of king penguin, the third largest such colony in the world. Gentoo and southern rockhopper penguins also breed there. In the past the penguins, mainly the royal and king penguins, were exploited for their oil, a practice which ceased in 1919.

The four breeding species of albatross are all threatened by long-line fishing when feeding away from the island, including the most numerous, the light-mantled sooty albatross with 2000 breeding pairs, and the wandering albatross, with fewer than ten pairs breeding each year.

Many species of petrel breed on Macquarie. However, they have been adversely affected by the introduction of black rats, house mice, rabbits and cats, and the small blue petrel breeding population on the island is considered to be critically endangered. Wekas were introduced by sealers in the mid-19th century and flourished, adding to the predation threat. With the eradication of the cats and the wekas, and an ongoing program to control the rabbits (which cause erosion), there are signs that the breeding petrel populations are beginning to recover. The long-term aim is to eradicate the rodents and rabbits as well.

The Macquarie Island parakeet became extinct about 1891. The Macquarie Island rail, an endemic subspecies of the buff-banded rail, disappeared about the same time.

List of birds[edit]


  • Barrett, Geoff; Silcocks, Andrew; Barry, Simon; Cunningham, Ross; & Poulter, Rory (2003). The New Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union. ISBN 1-875122-09-5
  • Birding-Aus Mailing List Archives
  • Christidis, Leslie; & Boles, Walter E. (1994). The Taxonomy and Species of Birds of Australia and its Territories. RAOU Monograph 2. RAOU: Melbourne. ISBN 1-875122-06-0
  • Garnett, Stephen T.; & Crowley, Gabriel M. (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. Environment Australia: Canberra. ISBN 0-642-54683-5
  • Higgins, P.J. (Ed). (1999). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 4: Parrots to Dollarbird. Oxford University Press: Melbourne. ISBN 0-19-553071-3
  • Marchant, S.; Higgins, P.J.; & Davies, J.N. (Eds). (1994). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 2: Raptors to Lapwings. Oxford University Press: Melbourne. ISBN 0-19-553069-1

External links[edit]