Explore the Wildlife
Click on the animal names below to find out more about them.
The Lagoon has over 3,000 Gentoo penguins, many of which stay at the rookeries throughout the winter, fishing in nearby waters, before laying their eggs in the spring.
- Most of the penguins you will see at the lagoon are Gentoos, we have over a 1,000 breeding pairs.
- There are 300,000 breeding pairs in the Falkland Islands, which is 30% of the world’s population.
- The adults stand 56-58cm tall and weigh about 5.5kg. They are the third largest penguin.
- Their life expectancy is about 10-12 years.
- They are easily recognised by the white stripe above their eyes, and a bright orange beak with matching feet.
- They lay two eggs in shallow ground nests in October. The parents take it in turns to sit on the eggs.
- The chicks hatch after 35 days and are fed in the nest by regurgitation by both parents.
- After another 30 days the grey fluffy chicks form crèches. They are fed for a further two months by their parents.
- After 100 days they are ready to go to sea.
- They eat small fish, squid and crustaceans, and tend to fish inshore.
The growing colony of King penguins at the Lagoon is a great delight to all. It is one of only three successful breeding King colonies in the Falklands.
We had seven King chicks overwinter successfully at the Lagoon this year.
- Kings are the second largest penguin. They stand 76cm and weigh 14kg. They are the second largest penguin, only Emperor penguins are larger.
- There are 2 million pairs in the world but only around 1,000 breeding pairs in the Falkland Islands.
- Their life expectancy is 30 years.
- They have orange ear patches and orange/yellow necks.
- They lay only one egg. This egg is incubated on the feet of both parents, who take turns to keep the egg warm.
- Incubation is 54 days. After hatching the chick is kept warm on the feet of its parents for 35 days until it is big enough to stand alone.
- The parents take it in turns to go to sea to fish for food and feed the chick by regurgitation. They eat fish, squid and crustaceans. They swim long distances to fish and dive deep.
- The chicks grow a warm brown fluffy coat and are fed by the parents through the winter and into the spring.
- Raising a King chick takes a year, so adults only raise chicks once every other year.
Regular visitors on the beach in summer are the Magellanic penguins from East Island, a Tussac grass wildlife haven, just off the point at the southern end of the beach. Magellanic penguins are in decline worldwide, and that includes the colony on East Island. They are now regarded as threatened. They too start incubating their eggs in October, in burrows in amongst Tussac grass on the island.
- They stand 35-38cm cm tall and weigh 4-5kg.
- Their life expectancy is 5-6 years.
- They usually lay two eggs. These are incubated in burrows being kept warm by the parent birds. They burrow for protection and shelter and use the same burrow each year.
- Incubation is 35-40 days. After hatching in the 2nd week of December the chicks are fed by its parents until the 2nd week of March when it will be able to go to sea.
- The parents take it in turns to go to sea to fish for food and feed the chick by regurgitation. They eat small fish, squid and krill. They may swim up to several hundred kilometres to find food.
- They are known locally as Jackass because of their braying call.
- They are migratory, swimming north for the winter. They can travel as far as Brazil. It takes them a week to swim to South America.
- They swim at speeds varying between 6-10km/hour.
- They return to the Falklands in late September and start to leave in March.
We have the occasional visit by a Rockhopper at the Lagoon, which comes to moult amongst the Gentoos. Their rookeries are usually on cliff tops. They hop up the cliffs. They are 2-3 Kg and 33-35cms. They leave in April for their winter migration to the Argentine and Brazilian fisheries returning in September ready to lay eggs in November that take 33 days to incubate. The chick fledges in March. They eat squid, krill and small fish. They can travel as far as 2000km in the winter migration. They don’t breed until they are 4 years old.
Thought to be less than 300 pairs in the Falklands; single pairs breed in amongst Rockhopper colonies. Stand 44-46cm. Larger and heavier than Rockhoppers but similar plumage, though striking yellow eyebrow looks like has been gel-creamed down. At the Lagoon we have had several visits by a Macaroni to the Gentoo colony which stayed to moult this season, so guests had good sightings of it. We don’t know if it is the same bird coming back each season. Feeds on squid, krill and small fish.
Regularly seen at the Lagoon swimming just out from the beach playing in the surf, in groups of three to eight. They sometimes give acrobatic displays, racing after prey and riding the waves just before they break. Feed on fish, hunting ground includes the kelp beds at northern end of beach. Usually seen from December throughout rest of the summer. They grow up to 2.5 metres in length.
Also regularly seen at the Lagoon from early December until April. They are short and stocky and “puff”, hence their local name “puffing pig”. Lacks a distinguishable beak. Have a more rounded dorsal fin than the Peale’s. Also smaller than the Peale’s growing to a maximum length of 1.7 metres. Have distinctive black and white colouration.
Southern Right Whale
A pair of these whales were sighted in the bay , just out from the Sea Cabbage Café in December. It was very exciting to see them so close inshore. They are called “Right” Whales as they were the right whale for whalers; easy to catch and floated when dead. They were hunted to near extinction by the early whalers working out of Falkland harbours and South Georgia. Over the last twenty years the species has shown a slow recovery, 1,600 at a recent count. They are slow swimmers rarely exceeding 4 miles per hour. They grow to 17 metres in length and weigh over 60 tons. Around the head are a series of growths or callosities. They are baleen whales and eat copepods, minute crustacea. They breed near Puerto Madryn in Argentina.
Southern Sea Lion
East Island, our island 1 mile to the South of the Lagoon, is home to several harems of Southern Sea-lions, totalling over a hundred adults. Sea-lions are in decline in the Falklands, the total number is thought to be just over 3,000. So East Island is an important breeding ground for them. They periodically patrol off the Lagoon beach, particularly when the young Gentoos come down to the beach to practise their swimming. Usually only rogue bulls take penguins. Main foods are octopus and squid. Each harem has a bull sea-lion that can weigh up to 320kg, with a maximum length of 2.6 metres.
Southern Elephant Seal
This Elephant Seal pup visited the Lagoon beach for a snooze in the sun. They are occasional visitors, keeping more to nearby East Island. They are the largest seal species, a full sized bull reaches 6m and weighs 3.5 tons. A distinctive feature of adult males is the inflatable proboscis (nose). Breeding season begins when adult bulls arrive on beaches usually in September, followed by the cows and form harem groups. Main pupping occurs in October. The pup is fed for 23 days during which time the cow is mated, after the pup is weaned the mother leaves and they have to fend for themselves. They will start entering the sea for short forages for food; the one pictured is probably resting after such a trip. They eat squid and fish. Their predators are Orcas and Leopard seals.
Thought to be as many as 200,000 pairs in the Islands. The male is white and the female brown. They are seen in large numbers at the Lagoon. They stand 46-48cm. They eat grass and in the autumn, berries of Diddle-dee, Teaberry, Mountain berry and Pig vine. Also seaweed. Lay eggs in September, nests hidden in long grass, difficult to find, though if you see a single gander, the female is likely to be hiding on her nest nearby. Egging is a tradition that is slowly dying out in the islands; the eggs are still eaten by some shepherds as part of their breakfast with mutton chops. Gosling legs are also a traditional camp dish. Goslings appear in late October and November and are ready to fly 10 weeks after hatching. Pairs rear up to 8 goslings. Sometimes a pair will steal goslings from other pairs, so end up with a score of young! The adult males can have very viscous fights. The young adult birds are delicious roasted in the autumn, fattened up with wild berries. My favourite is my home-smoked goose breast. There use to be a bounty on Upland geese (1p per bill) as they were thought to compete with the sheep eating grass.
They are the most stocky of the Falkland geese standing 35 to 38 cm. The adult male is pure white with yellow legs, the female is mainly black (pictured here) the insert is a juvenile male. They lay eggs towards the end of October, nesting near the shore, often migrating to nearby tussac islands to nest. Incubation period 30 days. They graze mainly on seaweeds. At the Lagoon they are seen regularly at the rocky northern fringe of the beach, foraging for seaweed.
We have over a hundred breeding pairs of Ruddy-headed geese at the Lagoon. They lay eggs in early October. They are similar to look at as the female Upland goose. They are shyer that the Upland geese and rarer. They eat grass and are found grazing around the penguin rookeries where the grass is rich. Stands 38 to 41 cms. The male has a high noted whistling call whilst the female’s call is a lower short quacking sound.
Also known as the Falkland Flightless Steamer duck as they do not fly. When in danger they rush into the sea and use their wings like steamer paddles, beating the water to get away faster. Also they do this to chase away intruders. They are territorial and each pair will have a section of the beach. They are seen on our beach but are shy so tend to hide during a busy day. They are the largest of the Falkland ducks, the male weighing 4.3kg and standing 25cm high. The male has the lighter coloured head with a bright orange bill, whilst the female has a dull yellow/olive green bill and a purplish head. Feeds in sheltered kelp beds inshore on a variety of marine life, particularly shellfish such as limpets, found commonly at the Lagoon. Very defensive in breeding season, sometimes resulting in male birds killing each other. They lay eggs in well hidden nests sometimes up to half a mile inland, from mid September to mid October.
Yellow-billed Teal Duck
These are sometimes seen in the creek and the smaller streams that the Land-rovers cross on the way to the Lagoon. They are the smallest of the breeding ducks in the Falklands and can have two broods in a season. Feed on aquatic animal and plant life. Flight is very swift with rapid wing beats. Beautiful tinkering call. A game bird that is still hunted, though for most, they are enjoyed far more alive.
Patagonian Crested Duck
Locally known as Grey ducks. They are seen in and around the Lagoon. They feed on a wide variety of marine life, foraging and dabbling in shallow waters. They are a slender duck and stand 24cm. They have a distinctive crest at the back of the head and vermilion/red eyes. Eggs are laid from early August through to April, pairs frequently having two broods. Nest close to shoreline, well hidden in vegetation. Sometimes two males will attend one female. During display birds swim rapidly backwards and are noisy and aggressive during the breeding season.
Lesser-spotted Tobytitus Wader
A rare flightless vagrant seen regularly at the Lagoon for the past ten seasons. We are hopeful of further good sightings next season. Wades in water both in the Lagoon and in puddles on the beach, though seems wary of venturing far into the sea. Often social though has been known to hide in unlikely spots. Eats fish but also seems to enjoy cake from the café.
Also known as the Magellanic Oystercatcher. They are black and white with a distinctive red bill and yellow eyes. Stand 22cm. Flight swift with rapid wing-beats and high-pitched flight call. Common at the Lagoon with several pairs breeding near the café on the tide-line in amongst the Sea Cabbage and stones, where they lay their eggs (see insert) between September and December. Pairs will noisily defend territories and their young, even attacking birds of prey. They draw predators and people away from young by pretending they have a broken wing which they drag along the ground. Groups are seen by the beach displaying in November. Look out for their fluffy spotted chicks in December and January on the beach outside the café. Two-banded Plovers breed close by, as they take advantage of the Oystercatcher’s defensive nature.
We have many Two-banded Plovers on the beach at the Lagoon. The pair that breed directly in front of the café, in the Sea Cabbage, have successfully reared three chicks each year for the past few years. They scuttle charmingly long the beach and are quite tame. The juvenile is pictured here with adult breeding male pictured in the insert, showing its rich chestnut nape. Egg laying begins mid October, Incubation lasts 25-26 days.
A trans-equatorial migrant which breeds on Arctic coasts of North America and migrates South to the Falklands and southern South America in the Northern winters. Seen in large numbers at the Lagoon from September through to March. Stands 7,5cm. Runs swiftly amongst the tide-line stones on the beach, blending in with the grey-quartzite pebbles and rocks. Takes flight more readily than the Two-banded Plover. Flight is much swifter and often accompanied by a high single not call. Feeds on the mud flats in the Lagoon and kelp on the beach.
These are rare visitors to the Lagoon. Though similar to look at to the Sandpipers, they are paler and stand taller at 10cm. Pale grey above and white below. Often hop on one foot, in flight darker wings show a notable white band. Also migrate from the Arctic.
South American Tern
Often seen at the Lagoon, particularly diving in groups for fish just offshore. They are beautiful small white birds with a forked tail and deep vermilion bill and legs. Antagonistic towards intruders and easily disturbed. Egg laying on open ground begins late November into December near the Dolphin Gulls. Young are fully fledged by mid–February. Eats Lobster Krill and small silver-scaled fish.
Regularly seen amongst the penguins at the Lagoon rookeries, hoping to scavenge spilt regurgitated fish as the parent penguins feed their young. Will also take eggs from careless birds. Nest with the Kelp gulls at far end of the Lagoon. Lays eggs at beginning of December. Incubation lasts 25 days. Grey with distinctive deep red bills and legs.
Pictured here being attacked by a Skua, which wants it to regurgitate fish that it just caught in the sea. They nest in the open at the far end of the Lagoon, egg-laying at the beginning of December. Incubation is 25 days. The juveniles are grey, the adults white with a black back and upper-wing. They are the largest of the Falkland gulls.
These birds of prey stand around the penguins at the Lagoon hoping to scavenge food; will take eggs and chicks. They are also seen on the boulder bank by the beach, where they watch and wait. They are extremely agile in flight; dramatic mid-air fights are regularly observed as one or two skuas chase and attack gulls, not giving up until the gull has regurgitated the fish it has eaten. The heavily built Skuas nest on nearby East Island on the open grassland. They are very aggressive when protecting their nests and will dive-bomb invaders. Not aggressive at the Lagoon.
Southern Giant Petrel
Will see these on the wing particularly on windy days, following the cliffs to the North and sweeping over the beach and surf. Sometimes there are floating rafts of them bobbing on the waves where they have found food. They fly as nobly as an Albatross but close up they are not pretty. Known locally as Stinkers as they will defend their nests by spitting bile at any predators. They have a vulnerable status, with only 62,000 pairs left in the world. The Falklands is a stronghold for them. They breed on East Island.
These white scavengers have a pigeon-like look and movement but up close they have rather unattractive faces. They hang around the penguin rookeries eating spilt food and faeces containing the remains of Lobster Krill and they will happily tuck into rotting blubber from a stranded cetacean. They are also seen on the beach, though more regularly in the winter.
Another bird only seen on the wing at the Lagoon, usually out to sea on windy days. They are classified as endangered. After fledging they roam the high seas for 7 years before returning to breed on West Falkland and the outer Islands. Rear one chick per year. Live for 40 years.
Also usually only seen on the wing at the Lagoon, mainly out at sea, flying low over the waves with head and neck stretched out. Known locally as Shags. They breed on the cliff ledges at the Bluff, the sea entrance to Bluff Cove Farm settlement, further round the coast from the Lagoon. They lay eggs in November and the young fledge in January/February. They stand 35cm. They feed in kelp patches, diving down from the seas surface.
This season due to an anomaly in the sea surface water temperature affecting the Gentoos food, some of the Gentoos second chicks did not survive. As a result nature’s bin men turned up in larger than usual numbers; the Turkey Vultures. The largest and most common Falkland bird of prey; they do not tend to attack healthy live birds or animals. They eat carrion, especially sheep carcasses. though once a sheep is “cast” (lying on its back unable to get up) the vultures will amble over, wait until the animal is sufficiently weakened and then start pecking out eyes, tongues and stomachs. They stand 40cm, have a slow leisurely flight and frequently glide on their broad wings. Adults have bright red unfeathered heads. Breeds nearby on East Island amongst the tussac grass bogs.
Locally called Caranchos these birds of prey are predators and scavengers. Look out whilst on the off-road drive out to the Lagoon, there is a pair that is often seen standing in the long grass down by Crocodile Bridge, especially in the Spring when the ewes and lambs are in that camp (paddock). We had a sighting of one, towards the end of this season, down at the Lagoon rookery which coincided with one of the young King penguin chicks disappearing. Also have a couple of pairs that live in the trees at the farm settlement where they keep the mice population down. Stands at 36-38cm. They have very distinctive markings and a harsh grating alarm call.
Also living in the trees by our farmhouse is a Barn Owl.
These tend to be seen on the way out to the Lagoon, sometimes sitting on a fence post. Stand 33cm. The females are red-backed, the males back and head usually blue-grey. Begin breeding in early October, taking it in turns to incubate the eggs. Young leave the nest after 45-50 days. Take a variety of prey including mice, small birds, rats and rabbits.
These breed on East Island but are occasionally seen on the rocky shoreline to the north of the Lagoon beach. Stand 36-38cm. Adult predominately dove-grey. Blue-black cap on head trails down nape and from it two white filoplumes extend to the shoulder. Crimson eyes. Fish in shallow waters and rock pools. Egg laying begins mid October.
We have had a visiting vagrant Cocoi Heron which spent much of the summer in the creek by Crocodile Bridge fishing for mullet and small fish. It stood 1 metre high.
These are regularly seen from the ridge to the Lagoon, often near the track, where they search for worms. They are slender, long-legged birds, standing 12.5cm with a distinctive upright stance and characteristic head-bobbing motion. Their distinctive chestnut plumage more vibrant during breeding season. Egg laying starts in October, inland, in the long grass, The chicks (insert) run for cover as the parent birds loudly distract predators. They are migrants, and usually head for the South American mainland for the winter.
Look out for these on the way out to the Lagoon especially up by the ridge. They are well camouflaged, so are not easy to spot, though they will fly up if disturbed, with a loud alarm call and erratic flight. A game bird that use to be shot by early sailors, rarely hunted now.
Dark-faced Ground Tyrant
A friendly bird that will often hover outside the café windows looking in at what is going on. Seen regularly at the café and on the rocks bordering the beach. They are small slender birds and stand 11.5cm, very erect on slender black legs. Eats moths and other insects.
These are seen on the grass and amongst the Sea Cabbage outside the café. Now have been renamed the White-bridled Finch as there is a Black-throated Finch in Australia. It has also been known as the Canary-winged Finch. The female is pictured, the males have a more distinctive colouration with a blue/grey head, a black bib and face edged with white and a yellowish-green body. Feeds on grass seed. They breed between September and December, nests are well-hidden in vegetation.
Also known as Military Starling or Falkland Robin, due to the male’s brilliant red breast. Seen regularly at the Lagoon at the top of the bank behind the café. Spends much of its time on the ground probing for insect larvae and worms. Holds head erect when alarmed, otherwise they crouch. Males have a loud harsh song, females’ call weaker. Breed between August and January. Nest built of grass often concealed beneath clumps of grass with an entrance tunnel. Females feed the young, the males visit nest to remove droppings. Flock together in the autumn for the winter.
A tame and friendly bird. Stands 6cm. Nests in tussac or cavities formed in coastal banks of peat. Breeds October through to December. Feeds on insects. Look out for them both on the way to the Lagoon and near the beach.
An unusual visitor to the Lagoon, though regularly seen on East Island. This season we had a visit in the café- one came through the back door to take a look! They are very friendly and inquisitive birds. Stands 9cm. Have a low stance and usually on the ground. Fly rapidly often following the contours of the ground. Favour tussac environment and breed on rat-free islands. Eat a wide variety of food, including seal and seabird excreta, marine amphipods and camel crickets. Breeding normally starts in October, 12 days incubation and the young fledge in 12-15 days.
More regularly seen at the farm settlement, in amongst the trees and mature garden shrubs, than at the Lagoon. Pictured is a juvenile. They stand 6.5cm. Males have olive-green plumage on back and suffused yellow-green on rump, flanks and cheeks. Underparts are a brighter yellow-green. Have black caps and chins. Females have duller plumage without the black cap and chin. Have noisy constant twittering song. Nests above the ground often in tussac bogs or garden shrubs which provide dense cover for the delicate cup shaped nest. Breeding from September to December. Eat seeds and small insect larvae.