Gulf rivers and migratory shorebirds

17 May 2018

Every year, migratory shorebirds travel extraordinary distances from as far as the eastern parts of Siberia to the Australian coast. The Gulf of Carpentaria’s south-east coast is a crucial stop for these birds, including critically endangered species like the Great Knot and Far Eastern Curlew. The birds use the Gulf’s expansive rivers and mudflats to feed, rest and prepare for continuing journeys north and south, and the region’s significance is recognised through its inclusion in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Site Network. Changes to freshwater flows could impact the ecological productivity of Gulf rivers, potentially affecting food availability and the shorebirds’ ongoing survival and health.Professor Michele Burford from Griffith University is leading a new Hub project to quantify the relative importance of the estuaries and mudflats of the south-east Gulf’s Gilbert, Mitchell and Flinders Rivers in terms of food resources for shorebirds. Identifying the rivers’ relative importance for these birds will help inform future water planning, environmental impact assessments and migratory shorebird habitat protection and management.

Great Knot

The Great Knot is critically endangered but finds refuge and food along the south-east Gulf coast, FLPA/Alamy stock photo.

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