Waders

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What Is Queensland Wader Study Group

  • QWSG is a special interest group within Birds Queensland.
  • The Queensland Wader Study Group is a voluntary organization.
  • It was formed to further research on both migratory and resident waders (shorebirds) in Queensland, and to work for their conservation.

Click on this link to be redirected to our website: Queensland Wader Study Group

What are waders?

Waders (Sandpipers, Plovers, and other Shorebirds such as Oystercatchers are collectively known as waders) comprise 10% of Australia's bird species. They are so unobtrusive, so keenly adapted to their environment, that many people hardly give them a second glance. Most species are migrants from northern China, Mongolia, Japan, Alaska and Siberia. In these regions, a brief opportunity for breeding arises when the snow melts. At this time,insect-life, a food source for chicks, is abundant.

image - eastern curlew
Eastern Curlew © I & J Brown

As autumn approaches, the birds migrate southward. They travel as far as 13000 km, arriving to spend the southern summer on our shores. The smallest of these birds have bodies no larger than a hen's egg, yet they still manage the journey. About 2 million waders migrate to Australia. The south-east corner of the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland is one of the most significant sites in the world for waders. Moreton Bay is also internationally recognized, with more than 40,000 waders arriving during spring and summer.

There are numerous threats to waders in Australia and in other countries of the flyway. In many parts of South-east Asia the birds are hunted and there is widespread habitat loss through coastal reclamation. In Queensland, there is inadequate protection of roost and feeding sites and threats from pollution.

There are international treaties aimed at protecting migratory waders. For example, the Ramsar Convention encourages member countries to conserve and sustainably manage wetlands. Within Queensland, Moreton Bay, Bowling Green Bay (near Townsville), Currawinya Lakes, Shoalwater and Corrio Bays and Great Sandy Strait (incl. Great Sandy Strait, Tin Can Bay, and Tin Can Bay inlet) are listed as Ramsar sites. Wader Study Groups in Australia are working towards the protection of waders by providing scientific information, and advocating both for the preservation and wise management of their habitat.

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Protecting waders

image - Pied Oystercatcher
Pied Oystercatcher © I & J Brown

Migratory shorebirds or waders spend their six or so months in Australia building up their bodies for the autumn trip to northern Asia to breed in the tundra areas. Many thousands of birds summer along the Queensland coast. They feed on mudflats around our salt-water bays and estuaries. They can only feed when the tide is low and the banks are exposed. They feed both day and night at low tide.

At high tide, they gather in large numbers at specific sites to wait out the tide, and to rest on banks or the shore above the tide level. These places are known as “high tide roosts”, and a few are signposted. These roosts are sometimes in remote spots but more often very close to human activity.

Waders usually lose up to half their body weight during their migration so they have a lot of building up to do. This involves eating, resting and not using excess energy. To achieve this, it is essential that the birds be permitted to feed and roost without disturbance. Much feeding is done on banks well off shore which are less attractive to people, but some feeding is done on foreshores.

People going for a walk, dogs running free, boats and jet-skis going by and fisherman intruding on the area, all of these disturb shorebirds both at their high tide roosts, while they are resting, and also while they are feeding.

Please avoid putting these birds to flight. Heavy penalties apply for disturbing waders.

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How can you help?

image- Great Knot
Great Knot © I & J Brown

Join the Queensland Wader Study Group and you can be involved in a number of interesting and rewarding activities:

  • Regular counts of waders around Moreton Bay, Cairns, Townsville, Gladstone and other regions. From this the QWSG maintains a wader database for Queensland. This gives us a measure of the abundance of the birds, and will give us early warning signs if the populations are declining.
  • Participate in expeditions to interesting sites in Queensland, such as Mackay and the Great Sandy Straits, to survey wader populations.
  • Link with other regional wader study groups through the Australian Wader Study Group (AWSG).
  • Help lobby for protection of wader habitat. Several areas of international importance for waders have no protection at all
  • Attend or assist with education courses on waders.

More information on the group and all these activities is available on the Queensland Wader Study Group Website

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