Wild About the Falklands – Falkland Islands Wildlife Guide

Wild about falkands- Falkland islands wildlife guide

The Falkland Islands have many drawcards. The incredible landscapes, the endless walking trails, and the expansive beaches. But if there’s one thing that keeps people coming back to the Falklands, it’s the magnificent array of birdlife and marine mammals that call this southern archipelago home. Abundant in supply and diverse in nature, the wildlife of the Falkland Islands is on par with that offered in the Galapagos, yet much more accessible.

I recently spent a week in the Falklands, and even though it was nearing the end of the peak season for wildlife, I was still able to experience the best the islands had to offer. With an added bonus – no crowds to compete with! OK, so with a population of almost 3,400 spread over 12,200 km², it’s unlikely the Falklands would ever feel cramped. Nevertheless, travelling in the quieter season means enjoying the serenity and being able to enjoy the wildlife without interruption.

Watching penguins playfully paddling in the surf, giant elephant seals battling on the beach, or even just sitting back and bird watching with your binoculars – you’ll find the wildlife experience you seek in the Falkland Islands. Here are my top wildlife moments to inspire your next holiday!

Penguins of the Falkland Islands


Magellanic Penguins

These medium-sized black & white penguins are found seemingly everywhere in the Falklands. Their distinctive markings mean they are easily identified, even while hanging out with the Gentoos on the beach. Magellanic penguins burrow into the soft peat and tall tussock grasses that line the shore. They are quite shy of human visitors but if you keep your distance, some will happily pose for photographs.

Wild About the Falklands – Falkland Islands Wildlife Guide

Where to find Magellanic Penguins: I saw plenty of Magellanic penguins in every place I visited – East Falkland (at Gypsy cove and Volunteer point), Pebble Island, Carcass Island, Weddell Island and Sea Lion Island.

Gentoo Penguins

Gentoo penguins are the iconic penguin of the Falkland Islands. Slightly bigger than Magellanic penguins, Gentoo penguins are also black & white but their orange bills and pinkish feet make them look more like their larger cousins – the King penguin. Gentoos are commonly found on the beach or walking between the beach and their colonies inland. Just follow the “penguin highway” – a well-trodden path from the colony to the beach to find them.

Where to find Gentoo Penguins: I saw these adorable penguins in East Falkland (at Volunteer beach), Pebble Island, Carcass Island, Weddell Island, and Sea Lion Island.

Rockhopper Penguins

Penguins look rather clumsy in general. They wobble around on two feet, flippers outstretched for balance as they hop over kelp on the beach or climb dunes to their colonies. Rockhopper penguins however, manage to defy the odds and climb the steepest and sharpest of cliff faces. Deftly hopping from one rock to another, their small frame and pink webbed feet scale the island’s walls to perch on rocky promontories overlooking the sea. Their bright red eyes are framed by a crest of spiky yellow feathers that make them look curiously coiffed.

Wild About the Falklands – Falkland Islands Wildlife Guide

Where to find Rockhopper Penguins: I saw rockhopper penguins on Pebble Island and Sea Lion Island.

Macaroni Penguins

Macaroni penguins look very similar to Rockhopper penguins, and the closely related birds like to hang out together in the Falklands. The subtle difference in appearance is down to the shade (more vibrant) and shape (spikier) of their crest of feathers. They are also slightly larger in size than the Rockhopper. Macaroni penguins have also been known to breed with Rockhopper penguins, creating a hybrid chick.

Wild About the Falklands – Falkland Islands Wildlife Guide

Where to find Macaroni Penguins: There are only a handful of Macaroni penguins in the Falklands, but I was lucky enough to spot two on Pebble Island, and one on Sea Lion Island. All three were hanging out with the Rockhopper colonies.

King Penguins

The superstar of the penguin world, King penguins are the biggest of the penguin species found in the Falklands, and arguably the most impressive looking (and sounding!). The world’s most accessible King penguin colony can be found at Volunteer Point, a 2.5-hour (depending on weather/off-roading conditions) drive from the country’s capital, Stanley. Their prime spot on East Falkland makes it a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. My favourite moment in the Falklands was hanging out with the King penguins at Volunteer Point. Seeing the fluffy brown chicks being cared for in the crèche, hearing the sound of their collective calls, watching as the adults preened and posed in pairs – it was just magical and something I’ll remember forever.

Wild About the Falklands – Falkland Islands Wildlife Guide

Where to find King Penguins: Volunteer Point, East Falkland.

Other Falklands Bird Species

With so many bird species in the Falkland Islands, I can’t cover them all in detail – in one blog post! But let’s just say it’s a bird watchers paradise. I loved watching the monogamous upland geese fly around in pairs, the rock cormorants battling the wind as they tried to land on rocky ledges, the cheeky caracara who landed on my camera, and the flightless steamer ducks waddling on the beach. The outer islands, in particular, are teeming with birdlife – I’m no birder, and yet I managed to spot 25 different species in one afternoon on Weddell Island!

Wild About the Falklands – Falkland Islands Wildlife Guide

Marine Mammals


Sea Lions

As you would expect, the aptly named Sea Lion Island is a great place to visit the Falklands’ sea lion breeding colonies. Here you can spot families laying on the kelp covered shores, or lazing beneath the tussock on the beach. But Sea Lion Island is far from the only place to see these impressive marine mammals. Weddell Island seems a popular spot – I saw a few lazy lions here while the rest of the colony were out at sea feeding. They were also sprawled along the coastline of Carcass Island as we flew overhead, and the eastern shores of Pebble Island are also proven as a suitable spot for sea lions.

Wild About the Falklands – Falkland Islands Wildlife Guide

Elephant Seals

These monstrous mammals make such an amazing and intimidating sight. They love to rest within the tussock grass, so be careful where you roam! I almost walked right into a sleeping pair of elephant seals dozing near the beach and carefully backtracked so as not to disturb them. During the breeding season especially they can be very territorial, so keeping a safe distance is advised. In March, they couldn’t care less about my presence, barely lifting a sleepy head to check me out as I walked by. 95% of the Falklands elephant seal population can be found on Sea Lion Island, and at the peak of their breeding season (mid-late October), there can be over 2000 seals on the island!

Wild About the Falklands – Falkland Islands Wildlife Guide

Dolphins and Whales

The most commonly sighted dolphins in the Falklands are the Commerson’s dolphins and the Peale’s dolphins. There are a further four species native to the waters around the islands, but they are rarely seen close to shore. I was lucky enough to spot both Peale’s and Commerson’s dolphins while on Weddell Island and they put on quite the show – surfing in the shallow waters just off the beach.

Many species of whale can also be seen migrating past the Falkland Islands. Keep your eyes down as you fly around the islands on your FIGAS flight and you may just spot a telltale dark shadow beneath the waves, or spot a blowhole shooting water into the air.

Whereas most whales pass by the islands on their migration route, Orcas are commonly found off the shores of Sea Lion for many months a year. They like to prey on the young sea lion pups, so are mainly present between September to February – when there are plenty of pups in supply. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see any Orcas when I visited Sea Lion Island in mid-march, although I have heard of people spotting them here as late as April.

Wild About the Falklands – Falkland Islands Wildlife Guide

Introduced Species


Foxes and Reindeer

This may seem like an unlikely addition to the list, but both the Patagonian grey fox and reindeer are found in the Falklands. Both introduced species, the reindeer were a gift from South Georgia (who later culled their reindeer population) and the foxes were introduced from South America. As they’re only present on two islands – Beaver & Weddell – I was hopeful I’d spot both foxes & reindeer while on the latter island.

I wasn’t disappointed. Although some visitors never encounter a single fox during their visit, I was lucky enough to see a fox within my first hour on the island – and three in total during my one-day stay! The reindeer were more elusive and despite my best efforts, I didn’t see any during my walk around the headland. But my luck changed as I spotted one lone reindeer among the grazing sheep (out of my bedroom window no less!) just before leaving the island.

Wild About the Falklands – Falkland Islands Wildlife Guide

Needless to say, the wildlife of the Falkland Islands was an absolute highlight of my trip! I’ve never experienced something so unique, so magical as seeing so many animals and mammals living in harmony with each other – and with the human population of the islands. As I overheard one tourist exclaim “I’m so lucky to be here, it’s paradise”…


Falkland Islands Wildlife Guide

This is a guest post by Nadine from the Exploring Kiwis . Nadine’s stay in the Falkland Islands was sponsored by the Falkland Islands Tourism Board. All opinions expressed are entirely her own. 

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