Carcass Island: key information

  • Breeding colonies of magellanic and gentoo penguins
  • A hotspot for Falkland songbirds
  • Beautiful sweeping sandy beaches and rolling landscapes
  • Latitude 51°18'S, Longitude 60°31'W

About Carcass Island

View of the sandy beach and cove on a cloudy day at Carcass Island in the Falkland Islands

Leopard Beach on Carcass Island

Carcass Island sits off the north-western tip of West Falkland. It is named for HMS Carcass, a Royal Navy ship that called here in 1766, and despite the gruesome sounding moniker it is a great place for birdwatching. The magellanic and gentoo penguins are the big draw here, congregating on the island's wide sandy bays.

Like many islands in the Falklands, Carcass Island is privately owned, the current owners having been in residence since mid-1970s. Thankfully, they have kept the island free of both rats and cats, which means that many songbird species absent elsewhere tend to thrive here.

There is a small settlement at Port Pattison and if there is time during a visit, cruise groups are sometimes hosted in the farmhouse for a tremendous spread of tea and home-made cakes. Aside from tourism, sheep farming remains an important part of life on the island.

Wildlife at Carcass Island

A group of four Magellanic penguins on a sandy beach on Carcass Island in the Falklands Islands. In the foreground there is a blurred sheathbill

Magellanic penguins on Carcass Island

Magellanic penguins and gentoo penguins are both resident on Carcass Island and can be seen at Dyke Beach and Leopard Beach on the southern end of the island where landings are made. The magellanic penguins nest in burrows on the edge of the beaches – they tend to be seen more early in the morning and later in the day. Gentoos nest in the tussac grass above the two beaches. The beaches are also particularly good for spotting Falkland steamer ducks and magellanic oystercatchers

Carcass Island's rat- and cat-free status means you have a good chance of spotting species absent elsewhere like the tiny endemic Cobb's wren. The species was first recorded for science here in 1908. The Falkland grass wren is also found here. Other songbirds to look out for include the tussacbird, dark-faced ground tyrant, Falkland pipit, Falkland thrush and long-tailed meadowlark (known as the 'military starling; for the male's red breast).

Striated caracara can often be seen perching on the fence posts between the beaches and the settlement; ruddy-headed geese are also common on the island. 

Swoop Says background image

Paul says

Magellanic penguins can be very shy and will retreat into their burrows at the first sign of discomfort, so always tread with extra care and patience when observing these wonderful birds.

Paul Clammer Guidebook Editor

Visitor guidelines for Carcass Island

While it is possible to make dry landings on Carcass Island at the jetty at Port Pattison Bay, the majority of expedition cruise ships make zodiac landings at either of the two beaches a couple of miles away on the southern tip of the island. Depending on the prevailing weather, you may land at either Dyke Bay or Leopard Beach.

If time allows, it is possible to make the 2½ mile (4km) walk from the beaches to Carcass Settlement. It's a stiff uphill walk but the cliffside views are tremendous. Stick to the marked path that follow the fences to avoid disturbing any gentoo penguins nesting in the tussac grass and leave gates as you find them. When near magellanic penguins be careful not to trample any burrows.

October to December is lambing season on Carcass Island, so if visiting at this time take extra care not to disturb ewes. 

NOTE: Ship itineraries and visits to specific landing sites in the Falkland Islands can never be guaranteed. Plans can change as fast as the weather in the South Atlantic: decisions on which locations to visit are always made on the day by the ship's captain and expedition leader.

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