Shorebirds of Brisbane

Shorebirds, also known as waders, gather in large numbers on Australian coastal and inland wetlands. Shorebirds generally have long legs in relation to their body size, no webbing on their feet and they don't swim.

Special features that make shorebirds different to one another include their nesting habits, specialised beak types, diet, expert hunting skills, and whether they are migratory or residential.

Regardless of the time of the day, shorebirds feed at low tide, peaking and probing for worms, insects and crustaceans. Their bills are specialised and variable depending on where they feed such as along the shore line or along the beach, in wetlands or around rocky headlands.  

For more information, visit the Queensland Wader Study Group website.

Residential and migratory shorebirds

Residential shorebirds are those that live here in Australia year-round. Resident shorebirds breed locally, nest in wetlands, grasslands, and along coastal shorelines.

Migratory shorebirds are visitors that live part of their year along Australia's wetlands and coastal shorelines. Our visitors fly amazing distances as far as Siberia, Korea, China and Japan from their breeding ground in the northern hemisphere. The migration routes these birds travel is called the East Asian-Australasian flyway and when they arrive in Brisbane, many will have travelled 13,000 kilometres. Approximately two million shorebirds visit Australia between September and April, with over 40,000 arriving in Moreton Bay each year.

The largest shorebird, the critically endangered Eastern Curlew, weighs up to 900 grams and flies from Russia every year. The smallest migratory bird, the Red-Necked Stint, weighs up to 30 grams and migrates between Siberia and Australia each year.

Shorebirds:

  • make up about 10 per cent of Australia's species of birds
  • need huge amounts of energy to travel distances of up to 25,000 kilometres each year
  • are able to sleep by allowing one side of the brain to shut down while flying.

To protect migratory shorebirds, Brisbane City Council and the City of Narashino, Japan have signed the Narashino Agreement.

Shorebirds feeding and roost sites

32 species out of 42 international migratory shorebirds visit the Moreton Bay region. This site provides vitally important feeding and resting grounds to both residential and migratory shorebirds.

The Boondall Wetlands are part of the chain of coastal wetlands associated with Moreton Bay listed under the international treaty Ramsar Convention as internationally important wetlands. The Ramsar Convention provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. Through the agreement of Ramsar Convention, Australia has agreed to protect both residential and migratory shorebirds. 

Help protect these birds

To protect shorebirds in Moreton Bay region:

  • keep your dog on a leash - each time birds are disturbed and forced to take flight they burn vital energy
  • reduce your boat speed near shorebird habitats
  • birdwatch from a safe distance
  • take '3 for the sea' - pick up three pieces of rubbish to prevent it ending up in a waterway or the ocean
  • reduce four wheel driving on beaches - don't disturb or destroy shorebird nests
  • join a local Habitat Brisbane group - Council's community bushare volunteer program.

Council is investigating options for designated dog off-leash areas within the Brisbane foreshore to improve environmental outcomes and shorebird protection, as well as create recreational opportunities for dog-owners along popular foreshore areas.

For more information, visit the Foreshore dog off-leash areas in Brisbane page.

Photo gallery

View the Boondall Wetlands Shorebirds photo gallery below or view the photos individually in the Boondall Wetlands Shorebirds set in Council's Flickr account.

Australasian Darter

Shorebird habitats

To find out where you can find these shorebirds in Brisbane, view the wetlands and parklands track maps for:

Last updated: 24 August 2021

Brisbane City Council acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land and their unique relationship with their ancestral country. We pay respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders of Brisbane, and recognise their strength and wisdom.