Gold Coast Island providing crucial habitat for migratory shorebirds in need of protection

View of the Gold Coast from Curlew Island. Photo credit: Paul Donatiu

Curlew Island, a two-hectare island located in the Gold Coast, is home to numerous threatened migratory shorebirds who visit to rest and feed prior to their migration north.

It is the most southern roosting and feeding site for listed migratory shorebirds in Moreton Bay, including the critically endangered Far Eastern Curlew. The next place you will find that type of habitat again is northern New South Wales.

The area is home to crucial habitat for a diverse range of threatened birds which visit the area. The availability of food and roost sites is critical for these birds, many of which travel tens of thousands of kilometres during their journey, some from as far as Siberia and Alaska.

Over recent years, Curlew Island’s native vegetation has been progressively colonised and degraded by weeds, meaning less available shorebird roosting habitat. Human disturbance and off-leash dogs who chase birds are also major threats to these birds.

Overcrowding on public holidays and an increasing number of visitors is becoming a big problem for migratory shorebird populations, whose numbers are dwindling.

Healthy Land and Water team leader Paul Donatiu, says that despite its significant ecological values and crucial nesting habitat, Curlew Island is not formally protected.

“It is extremely difficult to prevent disturbance to the birds and conserve their habitat when many people are unaware of the island’s ecological significance,” he explains.

“Being one of the key habitats for shorebirds in Southern Moreton Bay, it is extremely important to put protections in place to preserve this special area, and protect the shorebirds.”

He reflects that the fact that shorebirds are here in this environment and decide to come back every year is pretty special, and he is pleased to see that there is some hope around the corner.

“Thanks to the efforts of local groups, it has been recommended that the island be surveyed and recognised as an environmental reserve,” he says.

“This would be an important step forward in the efforts to protect the migratory birds that rest and feed there annually.”


Curlew Island. Photo credit: Paul Donatiu


With support from the Australian Government, Healthy Land and Water has been restoring Curlew Island since 2019. The project is improving ecological integrity and stabilising the island through weed removal and revegetation with native species. As a result of this work, invasive weed cover has significantly decreased.

Migratory shorebird species being protected by these works include:

  • Bar Tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) – EPBC listed migratory species.
  • Beach Stone Curlew (Esacus magnirostris) – Vulnerable (Qld).
  • Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) – Critically Endangered.
  • Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) – Critically Endangered.
  • Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) – EPBC listed migratory species.
  • Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) – EPBC listed migratory species.
  • Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) – EPBC listed migratory species.

Read more about the project:


Australian Pied Oystercatcher. Photo credit: Paul Donatiu


This project is supported by Healthy Land and Water, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

This project is being delivered in collaboration with Watergum.

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