Nature & Wildlife


Shorebird Visitors to the Clarence

In May – to commemorate World Migratory Birds Day – Australia Post released stamps featuring three migratory shorebirds: the Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Knot, and Eastern Curlew.

Most migratory shorebirds breed in the tundra of the Arctic Circle and spend the northern winter in the southern hemisphere with Australia being an important location. The Clarence Valley’s estuary and wetlands provide essential habitat for more than half of the migratory shorebirds that visit Australia each year, including those featured in the stamp issue.

Seven of the migratory shorebirds that visit Australia each summer are considered at risk of extinction. The Eastern Curlew and Great Knot are listed as critically endangered under our national environmental laws. ‘Critically endangered is the highest threat level that can be assigned to a wild species. These species face an extremely high risk of extinction, often with numbers that have decreased by 80% within three generations.

The key threat to their survival is human impacts on the intertidal zone, tidal flats, and saltmarsh.

China and South Korea have come under increasing international attack for their destruction of these important habitats, through the construction of seawalls, land reclamation, and other infrastructure development. They are also responsible for pollution events that devastate food sources over large areas of the coastline.

But certain developments and land use in Australia are also depriving these species of important foraging areas. Vehicles and dogs on beaches are an ongoing threat in our region. These disturb foraging birds and interrupt their replenishment of energy levels essential for flying back to the northern hemisphere to breed.

Shorebirds are not the only migratory species to visit the Clarence Valley. In winter, our forests and bushland support many migratory birds that visit each year from southern parts of Australia. The Grey Fantails you’ll see this winter come mostly from Tasmania. Golden Whistlers, Rose Robins, Pied Currawongs, Silvereyes, and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters are also southern migrants visiting the Clarence at this time of year.

So, while our international (and sometimes state) borders are closed to travelers, our skies remain free for tourists of the feathered variety.


Janet Cavanaugh