Shorebirds
  • Last updated:
  • 02 Aug 2020

Article and images by Laura Smith, Coastal Projects and Permits Officer, Sunshine Coast Council

Look to the skies! Our international visitors are about to take flight.

It’s almost that time again for us to say farewell to our annual international visitors – the shorebirds. They will soon be leaving our beautiful shores here on the Sunshine Coast, to embark on their trying journey, which will return them to their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere

The Sunshine Coast is a hotspot for biodiversity, teeming with a vast array of natural beauty, it provides a safe haven for the countries unique flora and fauna species. The area also provides habitat that is critically important for both endemic and nomadic avian fauna, with up to 10,000 migratory shorebirds inhabiting the various ecosystems that shape the interface of the coastal landscape, including the intertidal areas of Maroochy North Shore and Caloundra sandbanks.

Irrespective of whether its day or night, shorebirds feed at low tide searching for small crustaceans, worms and insects in inter-tidal mudflats, beaches, rocky shorelines and along the borders of freshwater wetlands. When the incoming tides cover the foraging areas, shorebirds move to open landscapes, often in large numbers, to digest and preen, as they await their next feeding opportunity.

Our fine feathered friends spend the summer months on our picturesque shores resting and accumulating muscle and fat to increase their body mass by up to 70%, for the great journey back, which can be an extraordinary 20,000 – 30,000 km to their breeding grounds in places such as Siberia, China or Alaska. One of our international visitors is the bar-tailed godwit. Studies have shown that this little guy travels up to 11,000 km from Alaska to New Zealand in just eight days – without taking a break!

Due to an increase of human disturbance and global habitat degradation, shorebird populations are continuing to decline, with several species classified as threatened.

To safeguard shorebird populations and alleviate anthropogenic impacts, it’s essential for us to understand their unique ecology including the importance of habitat type, prey density, undisturbed rest, their distinctive distributions and the significance of international migratory pathways. Council is currently working on a Shorebird Conservation Action Plan to help mitigate threats and create further awareness around the importance that both our resident and migratory shorebirds have on our ecosystems. This is key to conserving their habitat, to ensure our feathery visitors come back to visit us each year!

References

  • Bamford M., Watkins D., Bancroft W., Tischler G., Wahl J. (2008). Migratory shorebirds of the east Asian-Australasian Flyway: Population Estimates and Internationally Important Sites. Wetlands International – Oceania. Canberra, Australia.
  • Stigner, M. G., Beyer, H. L., Klein, C. J., & Fuller, R. A. (2016). Reconciling recreational use and conservation values in a coastal protected area. Journal of Applied Ecology, 53(4), 1206-1214.
  • Sutherland W. J., Alves, J. A., Amano T., Chang C. H., Davidson N. C., Finlayson C. M., Gill J. A., Gill R. E., Gonzalez P. M., Gunnarsson T. G., Kleijn D., Spray D. J. Szekely T., Thompson D. B. A. (2012). A horizon scanning assessment of current and potential future threats to migratory shorebirds. Ibis 154, 663-679.
  • Wilson, H., Kendall, B., Fuller, R., Milton, D., & Possingham, H. (2011). Analyzing Variability and the Rate of Decline of Migratory Shorebirds in Moreton Bay, Australia. Conservation Biology, 25(4), 758-766.