Seabird sites in southern Africa

Halifax Island, Namibia

Jessica Kemper
 
Halifax Island, Namibia
Photo Jessica Kemper
The jetty on Halifax with a penguin welcoming party, but the island is out of bounds
  
 
Halifax Island, Namibia
Photo Jessica Kemper
This area used to be covered with penguins, but the population has dwindled dramatically, with the birds concentrated in a few small clusters

Halifax Island (26 39 S, 15 04 E) is situated roughly 10 km west of Lüderitz near Diaz Point, about 100 m off the mainland. It is the third most important breeding site for African Penguins in Namibia, even though it is estimated that the population has more than halved in the last 30 years. Much of the 10 ha island is rocky, with a flat, gravelly central plain. Several houses and sheds, once used by the guano harvesters and the island headman, have deteriorated and are falling apart. The island is no longer staffed, and penguins now breed in the buildings. It is difficult to imagine that Halifax Island was once covered in guano. All that remains now are six small patches, three of which are no longer used by penguins. The other three guano-patches are used by the three remaining breeding colonies, with shallow nest bowls scraped into the guano, all spaced a pecking distance away from the next nest bowl. Isolated nests are also found under bushes and under boulders.

Halifax Island is also home to a growing number of Kelp Gulls, which also breed on the island during summer (roughly 350 nests in 2000). Numbers have possibly been bolstered by the nearby rubbish dump at Lüderitz. Since the penguins are largely surface nesters, unguarded eggs or small chicks are particularly susceptible to gull predation on Halifax Island. Artificial nests have been put up on Halifax Island during August 2001 to monitor whether breeding success could be significantly improved by providing a more sheltered nesting environment.

Other seabirds breeding on Halifax Island include Crowned Cormorants, Swift Terns and Hartlaub's Gulls. In May 2001, three African Black Oystercatcher chicks fledged successfully. Cape Cormorants and Whitebreasted Cormorants often roost on the island. Other seabirds seen regularly include Cape Wagtails, Turnstones as well as the occasional Greater Flamingo and Whimbrel. Heavisides Dolphins are often seen in the bay. The island is managed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and although it is not permanently staffed, seabird populations are regularly monitored. Owing to its proximity to Lüderitz and the mainland, there have been some incidents of trespassing and illegal egg collecting in the recent past. These have resulted in disturbance to breeding seabirds. Because of its sensitivity, Halifax Island is off-limits to the public, but tourists are able to get a glimpse of the island from the schooner "Sedina" which offers daily sailing tours past the island.

Halifax Island, Namibia
Photo Jessica Kemper
New occupants...
 
Halifax Island, Namibia
Photo Jessica Kemper
... probably the best tenants the island could have