HomeNewsShoring up shorebirds on Barubbra Island

Shoring up shorebirds on Barubbra Island

Barubbra Island shorebirds
Burnett Mary Regional Group plans to trial artificial roosts at Barubbra Island to provide safe habitat for shorebirds and assist with monitoring. Photo: Lagoon, Barubbra Island

Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) is leading a ground-breaking project to shore up the future of migratory birds along the coast near Bundaberg.

BMRG plans to trial artificial roosts at Barubbra Island to provide safe habitat for shorebirds and assist with monitoring.

Planning approval is being sought to install long-line oyster bags as a low-cost, low-impact, semi-permanent alternative to previous methods.

Critically endangered species known to nest in the area included the bar-tailed godwit, curlew sandpiper and Australia’s largest shorebird, the eastern curlew.

The Eastern Curlew takes an annual migratory flight to Russia and north-eastern China to breed, returning to Australia in August to feed on crabs and molluscs in intertidal mudflats.

Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) is funding and supporting the project, while volunteers from BirdLife Bundaberg will assist with monitoring the shorebirds.

Barubbra Island shorebirds
The Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) is leading a ground-breaking project to shore up the future of migratory birds along the Queensland coast near Bundaberg. Photo: Whimbrel taken by Chris Barnes

Gidarjil Development Corporation land and sea rangers will help to assemble and install the floating roosts.

BMRG project officer Samuel Groom said the trial is modelled on work successfully undertaken by BirdLife Australia at three other sites.

“Bundaberg serves as a major feeding and roosting ground for shorebirds, receiving 42 species of migratory shorebirds along our shoreline from September to April,” he said.

“Monitoring over the 2020 season showed that Bundaberg received 2000 birds across 22 species with six of these species being under threat.

“Shorebirds have experienced extreme loss of habitat over recent decades due to global urbanisation.

“They need large areas of suitable habitat protected or built to breed, feed and roost.”

GPC Executive General Manager for Safety and Environment Social and Governance Richard Haward said the corporation was proud to support the project through its community investment program.

“This is a fantastic project that sees us investing $250,000 into the partnership over the next five years,” Mr Haward said.

“We look forward to working with BMRG, BirdLife Bundaberg and Gidarjil Development Corporation land and sea rangers to see this project reach implementation and monitoring.”

Barubbra Island roost location.
Barubbra Island roost location.

BirdLife Australia‘s information about artificial roosts

• Barubbra Island is separated from the mainland by the Burnett River and Welcome Creek.
• Mangroves dominate the island with a small portion being salt marshes, and it's considered a high-value wetland.
• Classed as a conservation park it falls within the environmental management precinct of Bundaberg’s State Development Area.
• BMRG hopes to install the floating roosts after the birds migrate north for breeding in March-May and before they return between August-September to limit disturbance.
• A floating roost consists of 40 pillow-shaped diamond mesh bags per line, which will be filled with 2-3kg of oyster shells.
• The weight keeps the bag partly submerged and helps prevent it flipping over on the lines.
• The shells become colonised by intertidal and marine species, enabling the shorebirds to forage while they are roosting on the floating platforms.
• The structures will have a small footprint of 375 sq m and won't obstruct or prevent public recreational access.

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