Antarctica Wildlife

Birds

Which birds can be found in antarctica?

Although many journeys to Antarctica focus on photographing the landscapes and penguins when you actually arrive on the Antarctic Peninsula, we want to ensure you make the most of any and all photographic opportunities available to you. Crossing the Drake Passage is an unavoidable part of any journey from Ushuaia to Antarctica, but this doesn't mean that it has to be two days of sitting in your cabin waiting for the excitement to begin. Throughout the crossing there will be whales and birds aplenty so get your cameras out and start honing your photography skills now. A number of Antarctic birds love to follow in the wakes of ships as their prey is displaced due to the movement of the ship which therefore makes them easier to hunt. Stand out on the deck of the ship to look out for albatross, shags, gullls and terns en route and you might even get your first photo to be proud of before you even arrive in the seventh continent. 

ALBATROSS

Albatross are known as the largest flying bird, with the great albatrosses having the largest wingspan of all living birds. Despite their minimal breeding (usually only once every two or three years), there are a surprising number of this species thanks to their low mortality rates, long lifespan and varied habitat. Many of the species, particularly the wandering albatross, can migrate hundreds of kilometres each day, but their distinct white and grey plumage and huge size can be spotted while crossing the Drake Passage and sailing around the Antarctic islands.

When travelling in Antarctica a number of albatross can be seen, so look out for wandering, grey-headed, black-browned and light-mantled sooty albatross on your journey.

An albatross’ wingspan can reach up to 11 feet (3.4 metres)!

STRIATED CARACARA 

Striated caracaras are distinctive and charismatic raptors, which have the southernmost overall breeding distribution of any bird of prey in the world – found mainly on isolated shores and islets in the extreme south of Argentina and Chile. Their plumage is mostly deep brown to blackish-brown, with fine white streaking beginning at nape of the neck, and becoming broader and more conspicuous on the upper back and breast. 

THESE CURIOUS SEABIRDS FEED ON SMALL SEABIRDS AND THE EGGS AND CHICK OF LARGER SEABIRDS, INCLUDING PENGUINS AND ALBATROSSES. THEY ALSO FEAST ON THE CARCASSES OF FUR SEALS AND PENGUINS.

PETRELS

A range of petrel species can be seen around Antarctica; from white-headed and giant petrels to Antarctic, Cape and Atlantic petrels too. Perhaps the most abundant of these is the Wilson’s storm petrel which can often be seen following ships on their way down to Antarctica. Look out for these tiny birds around whale sightings and cliff edges.

Snow petrels are small, pure white birds than inhabit the cold Antarctic waters. They are one of only three species of bird that breed exclusively in Antarctica and have even been seen as far as the South Pole. 

These little snowy birds are often witnessed skimming across the water’s surface which makes for fantastic reflective photography.

Shearwaters, shags and skuas

Unlike albatross and petrels, these bird species are more likely to be found closer to land on the Antarctic peninsula, but will often be seen using hunting in expanses of water.

Shearwater is a broad term that covers a number of Antarctic species that are named for their style of flight, sheering across the front of waves. Sooty shearwaters are known for having one of the longest migrations ever on record with a range of 64,000km in just one year! Due to their evolution, shearwaters do not move comfortably on land, so look out for them in the air for the best photographs.

Shags are large birds of the cormorant family with spear-like heads that they use to dive into the water in search of prey. With minimal drag in the water, they have been known to dive as deep as 16 metres. Shags are also known to hunt in groups so as to panic fish into moving into their beaks or the beak of another bird. 

Skuas are known as being particularly aggressive birds, especially when protecting their eggs and young on land. They can be found in both the Arctic and Antarctica and watching their mating rituals can be quite a sight. This display can actually often be heard before it's seen as the squawking is so loud! 

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