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You can help protect our endangered shorebirds


Stone curlews wandering the Inskip


September 6th is World Shorebirds Day, a global celebration dedicated to shorebirds and their conservation. Shorebirds are more vulnerable than ever, threatened by human activities that are changing their habitats, and almost half of the world’s shorebird populations are declining.


What are Shorebirds?


Shorebirds, also known as waders, are birds commonly seen feeding on the fringes of freshwater wetlands or intertidal areas. They are characterised by their long legs in relation to their body, no webbing on their feet and they do not swim. Some shorebirds have long probing bills, ideal for fishing out worms and crustaceans from deep muddy areas, while others have short bills ideal for flipping aside shells and stones on rocky foreshore looking for food.


The significance of Moreton Bay


Residential and migratory shorebirds make up around 10% of Australia’s species of birds, most breeding in the Northern Hemisphere, where around 40,000 of those shorebirds then migrate to Moreton Bay (Queensland) each year. Moreton Bay wetlands are extremely critical for both migratory and residential shorebirds, and furthermore, these wetlands have been acknowledged as Ramsar listed sites, recognised as internationally significant under The Convention of Wetlands of International Importance, an international treaty that provides conservation of these wetlands and their resources.


Why is it important to conserve Wetlands such as the Melaleuca Wetland

As part of our Revive our Wetlands project, Conservation Volunteers Australia and the community have been working in partnership with the Coochiemudlo Island Coastcare at the Melaleuca Wetlands to conserve this important wetland. These Melaleuca Wetlands form part of the Moreton Bay Ramsar site, and like many of the Ramsar sites, the Melaleuca Wetlands provide essential habitat for shorebirds to roost, feed and breed.


The Melaleuca Wetlands are a considered a biodiversity hot-spot, with recent studies identifying over 200 plant species and more that 100 bird species and many native invertebrates and animals. The mangroves and sandy beach habitats provide prime feeding grounds for shorebirds, feeding on crustaceans, shellfish and fish, as well as shelter and ideal breeding grounds.


Some of the most recognisable species at the Melaleuca Wetlands


The Eastern Curlew is the world’s largest shorebird species that breed in Russia and Northern China. This endangered species is the largest wader that visits Australia for its food source, a diet mainly consisting of crabs. About 75% of the world’s curlews winter in Australia, and the Melaleuca Wetlands act as a significant ‘pit-stop’ for the species, which is why it is vital that we continue to protect Australia’s coastal wetlands like the Melaleuca Wetlands.


The Beach-stone curlew is a shy but friendly face on the foreshores of the Melaleuca Wetlands. Classified as ‘near-threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the beach-stone curlews usually nest in sandbanks, sandpits or near short grass where their eggs are protected. A female usually lays 1 egg per season; however, it is not unusual to see female curlews lay a second egg if the first one is lost. Once hatched, the young receive paternal care until they reach 7-12 months old.



“Beach-Stone Curlews were seen on the main beach recently. The pair were down by the wetlands with pied oystercatchers.”

Says Vivienne Roberts.


Vivienne Roberts-Thomson, the president of Coochiemudloe Island Coastcare is very familiar with the shorebirds that reside and migrate to the Melaleuca Wetlands on Coochiemudlo Island.


“Their flight paths are part of the Moreton Bay Ramsar Site and are all interconnected with shorebirds using the who bay – from Toondah and the sandbank south of Coochiemudlo Island right across to North Stradbroke Island, a mosaic of flightpaths.”


Other resident shorebirds that shadow the foreshores of the Melaleuca Wetlands for protection include the pied and sooty oystercatchers, the black-winged stilt, herons, pied cormorants, egrets, kingfishers, terns, as well as the occasional beach-stone curlew.


You can help protect shorebirds


Shorebirds are very easily disturbed by close activity and these disturbances interrupt the feeding, breeding and resting of shorebirds. When shorebirds take flight due to disturbance, they are using critical energy that would otherwise be required for migration and breeding, and through repeated disturbances, these shorebirds might not have sufficient energy reserves to complete their breeding and migration home.


Dogs in particular are noted to disturb shorebirds and foreshores are also popular dog recreational areas. At Conservation Volunteers Australia, we are true dog people. We love our dogs like family and love nothing more than to see them romping through open fields and sniffing around happy as anything. But we must think of all species, especially during nesting season. Like all species who nest on the ground, the beach-stone curlews are very vulnerable to intensive disturbances such as unleashed dogs, boat and jet ski traffic as well as lost nests from trampling.


Here are a few things you can do when you’re at the beach or your local wetland to help keep shorebirds safe:

  • Give them plenty of space so they don’t get scared and avoid making loud noises
  • Keep dogs on a leash
  • Take home rubbish to prevent injury and habitat degradation
  • Join conservation efforts (like ours!) to protect and restore coastal wetlands
  • Abide by shellfish bag limits and take only what you need


Another way to help shorebirds is to help conserve the critical habitat wetlands such as the Melaleuca Wetlands provide. To find out more about our Revive our Wetlands projects and how to get involved in wetland conservation activities, follow the link below:



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