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Wildlife & Habitat

Baker SW coast

Baker Island is a model of both the sensitivity of insular ecosystems and mechanisms by which they can recover following disturbance. The low coral island is vegetated by herbs and grasses tolerant of the arid climate. It is surrounded by beaches on all sides composed of sand or coral shingle.

  • Birds

    Masked boobies in flight 150x118

    Eleven species nest on the island including boobies, frigatebirds, and almost 1 million pairs of sooty terns. Migrant shorebirds also use Baker Island, including Pacific golden plovers, wandering tattlers, ruddy turnstones, and bristle-thighed curlews.

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  • Mammals

    Bottlenose Dolphin 150x90

    On most visits to Baker Island, a group of approximately 40 bottle-nosed dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) appears as the ship approaches the island. Formal quantitative surveys of marine mammal distribution and abundance have not been undertaken at therefuge.


  • Reptiles

    green turtle

    Only two species of terrestrial reptiles have been reported from Baker Island, the snake-eyed skink (Cryptoblepharus poecilopleurus) and the mourning gecko (Leipidodactylus lugubris). The skink was first reported by Hague in 1862, and the gecko by Bryan in 1935 (cited in Clapp and Sibley 1965). Both species were seen by Flint and Woodside (1993). The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) have been observed foraging offshore at Baker.


  • Fish

    fish photo

    A total of 247 fish species have been recorded at Baker Island. In 2004, researchers sighted three rare humphead wrasse in deep water off the island.

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  • Invertebrates

    Hermit crabs

    Large numbers of hermit crabs, Coenobita perlata, are found on Baker Island. They rely on the abandoned shells of marine snails for their protection. Other terrestrial arthropods and mollusks are very poorlyknown. 
    The entomologist Edward L. Caum visited Baker Island in 1924 and a number of other naturalists collected insects on subsequent trips but there are no published accounts or lists. Recent observations and collections during visits by Service biologists include house flies, small ants, moths and millers, butterflies, spiders, and anearthworm.

  • Marine Habitat

    coral 150x118

    Baker’s shallow marine benthic habitats consist of fringing reef crests, shallow back reefs,steep fore reefs, spurs-and-grooves, and small reef terraces. The last two habitats are restricted to the windward (east side) of the island. 

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  • Island Habitat

    Baker Beach

    The flora of Baker was first surveyed during the 1924 Whippoorwill Expedition, when 15 species were found. In 1965, 24 species were recorded for the island, and in 1993 Refuge staff found two more species. The vegetation is all low coastal strand species with only a few tiny shrubs emerging above the level of the vines and grasses. Eleven additional species were introduced by the colonists in the 1930s but failed to survive the voracious crabs and rats or the extreme temperatures and dryness. A beautiful native bunch grass, Eragrostis whitneyi, was rediscovered by refuge staff in 1993 after not being seen since 1924.  

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Page Photo CreditsJames Maragos/USFWS
Last Updated: Jan 15, 2016
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