Lying to the east of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Commander Islands are known for the vast colonies of seabirds that line the coastal cliffs, and large numbers of various marine mammals.
Discovered by Commander Vitus Bering in 1741, the islands are unique for their wildlife of both American and Asian origin. In 1993, the islands were declared a zapovednik (Federal Nature Reserve), and have since been included in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The only permanently inhabited area is the village of Nikolskoye, which has a population of fewer than 1000 people.
Due to the remoteness from human influence, the area supports an abundance of wildlife. Significant numbers of northern fur seal, Steller’s sea lion, sea otter and spotted seal are found along the shores, while the surrounding waters are an important habitat for many whale species. Sperm whale, beaked whale, orca and right whale all feed and migrate here. The islands’ terrestrial mammals are much less diverse, but include two endemic subspecies of Arctic fox.
One of the main highlights is the large colonies of seabirds which nest on the coastal cliffs. More than 200 bird species have been recorded, including the impressive Steller’s sea eagle, while common visitors include Brünnich’s guillemot, horned and tufted puffin, cormorant and red-legged kittiwake.
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