A Field Guide to the Wildlife of South Georgia
South Georgia is rich in wildlife and spectacular scenery, and it is a prime destination spot on most Antarctic tours. This beautifully illustrated field guide depicts the birds, mammals, insects, flowering plants, and other vegetation found in this unique part of the world. It features 368 full-color photographs of more than 180 species, including 65 species of birds, 20 species of sea mammals, nearly 60 species of insects, and more than 40 species of flowering and nonflowering plants. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, with information on status, behavior, threats, and distribution. This one-of-a-kind photographic guide also includes introductory chapters on South Georgia's geography, climate, ecology, and conservation.
"If you ask anyone who has undertaken a combined tour to Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia, I would bet quite a lot of money that the majority would name the last as the most impressive in terms of wildlife and scenery.
South Georgia is a British Overseas Territory and a mass of inaccessible ice-clad mountains rising to nearly 3,000 m; it has been described as being like the Alps in mid ocean. lt is a long, narrow island measuring 170 km long and up to 40 km wide, and it lies on a submarine ridge that links South America with the Antarctic Peninsula. There are also four principal outlying islands and numerous islets and rocks. Half the main island is covered in ice and permanent snow, and several glaciers run into the sea. The coast is largely cliff-bound but, on the northern coast especially, there are deep fjords and bays, often with areas of flat ground behind them. South Georgia is famous for its vast nesting colonies of King Penguins, and this is also the place where you can carefully walk between the nests of Wandering Albatrosses, while against the cliffs you can witness the graceful flight of Light-mantled Albatrosses. For those who seek endemics, there is the South Georgia Pipit and also the rather tame endemic race of Yellow-billed Pintail, which is sometimes treated as a full species, while the localised Georgian Diving Petrels can be viewed at close range. Meanwhile, Southern Elephant Seals jostle for prime beach positions and Antarctic Fur Seals demonstrate their supreme underwater skills.
This is the first comprehensive guide to the fauna and flora of South Georgia. The editors follow South American Checklist Committee taxonomy, and the main section of 79 pages describes the 65 species of birds that you are most likely to see, with the text facing the relevant photographs. The images are excellent and were taken by many different photographers. Using digital imaging, most have been superimposed onto a common background to show similar species in flight together. For breeding species, there are details of distribution, identification, voice and behaviour, along with notes of threats and places where each can be seen, while rarer visitors are allocated much less detail. There are also details of six species of seal, three introduced mammals, 14 cetaceans, almost 60 insects and more than 40 flowering and non-flowering plants.
The main habitats are described, together with topography, geology, climate and a summary of the historical exploitation of the island. I would like to have seen a better explanation of the locations that naturalists are able to visit. A loose, single sheet map of South Georgia fits neatly inside the cover of the book, so that one can make sense of where the various sites are. This is an excellent book and recommended for all visitors."
- Keith Betton, Birding World 25(12), January 2013.
Robert Burton is a natural history writer and Antarctic tour lecturer. He first visited South Georgia in 1964 and later studied albatrosses at the British Antarctic Survey research station at Bird Island. John Croxall studied seabirds and seals at South Georgia for the British Antarctic Survey for three decades, retiring in 2006. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and a trustee of the South Georgia Heritage Trust.