The flight of the shorebirds: Protecting our amazing migratory shorebirds

A Far Eastern Curlew

A new project is tackling the protection and conservation of shorebirds in Moreton Bay, an internationally important roosting and foraging ground for some of the world’s critically endangered migratory shorebirds.

Did you know:

Shorebirds need huge amounts of energy to complete their migration, which can take up to several weeks.

They commonly lose up to 40% of their bodyweight after sometimes more than 6,000km of non-stop flying. When they stop to rest and feed, they may increase their body weight up to 70% to fuel the next leg of the journey.

One of the shorebird species on the project watch list is the critically endangered Far Eastern Curlew, which has experienced a population decline of more than 80% over the past 30 years.

These notable declines have sparked locally focused research, including recent work done by the Queensland Wader Study Group and the University of Queensland which has shown migratory shorebirds and their habitats are in decline in Moreton Bay.

Healthy Land and Water’s Shorebirds Project is focused on Moreton Bay, one of the most significant marine habitats on the east coast of Australia. It supports at least 28 different migratory shorebird species.

The area the project is being run in has been recognised as a Ramsar site since 1993 – a wetland of international importance – due to its biodiversity and ecological significance.

Moreton Bay’s shorebirds meet not one but two of Ramsar’s criteria, being the abundance of waterbirds in the area, and the significant proportion some of the species make up of global populations.

Over 35,000 migratory shorebirds travel to the wetlands each year to rest and feed, spending up to eight months in the Bay. The availability of food and roosting sites when they arrive is critical to their survival.



A long journey: Flying home for Christmas

Some recent satellite tracking proved a great way to visualise the sheer distances shorebirds can travel. It was also a sobering reminder of the impacts of adverse weather patterns on these amazing birds when they’re migrating.

Recently, some researchers following the journey of three Far Eastern Curlews that were tagged in Moreton Bay, noticed that the birds were pushed off-course by weather conditions. The researchers were pleased to see the displaced birds managed to course-correct and return to their normal roosting grounds in Moreton Bay, arriving just in time for Christmas (see above).

Tracking, such as this work conducted by the Queensland Wader Study Group and the University of Queensland, is an eye-opening insight into the incredible versatility of our migratory shorebirds. Tracking them is no minor undertaking. By the time they reach our shores, many shorebirds have travelled tens of thousands of kilometres, some from as far as Siberia and Alaska.


Healthy Land and Water is working with land managers, governments, Traditional Owners, community organisations, and researchers to implement priority actions that protect and restore roosting and foraging habitats and build knowledge on habitats used by migratory shorebirds within the Moreton Bay Ramsar site.

On ground actions include restoration of shorebird habitat through vegetation control, water level management, and reducing disturbance from recreational use of the area.

The project is also conducting an assessment of all migratory shorebird roost sites within the Bay to determine species diversity, abundance and site-specific management actions needed.

These actions complement the 30 years of work on shorebirds conducted by the Queensland Wader Study Group in Moreton Bay.

Actions are anticipated to benefit seven threatened migratory shorebirds: The Far Eastern Curlew, Curlew Sandpiper, Great Knot, Red Knot, Greater Sandplover, Lesser Sandplover and Bar-tailed Godwit.

The overarching aim of the project is to conserve 100% of internationally and nationally significant migratory shorebird roost sites in Moreton Bay and establish long-term arrangements for the coordinated protection and management of important shorebird roosting and foraging habitat into the future.



The Call of the Far Eastern Curlew

A new children’s book is showcasing the plight of the endangered Far Eastern Curlew. Written by local children’s author Katrina Logan and illustrated by her brother-in-law Geoff Logan (pictured), the book tells the story of Parker, a young boy whose fascination and love of birds has set him on a mission to save his favourite bird of all – the Far Eastern Curlew.

Katrina worked closely with the Queensland Wader Study Group to bring the story to life and the book also features images by local Redlands photographer Chris Walker.

The Call of the Far Eastern Curlew is available in hardcover here.


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

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