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Location Australia, Northern Territory
Central coordinates 135o 3.19' East  12o 32.13' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i
Area 95,288 ha
Altitude 0 - 10m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

BirdLife Australia



Summary Two surveys in relatively wet years have both counted over 300,000 birds, of which over half were Magpie Geese and unidentified egrets. Other waterbirds present in internationally significant numbers include Black-necked Stork, Brolga, Glossy, Australian White and Straw-necked Ibis, Radjah Shelduck, Pied Heron, Royal Spoonbill, and Grey-tailed Tattler and Great Knot on the adjacent stretch of Castlereagh Bay. The IBA also supports the near threatened Australian Bustard.

Site description This IBA includes the Arafura swamp, 450 km east of Darwin, and the coastal saline flats of Castlereagh Bay west to Milingimbi, but not the tropical savanna in the surrounding catchment. The north-west boundary opposite the island of Milingimbi and the north-east boundary at the mouth of the swamp are based on the shorebird surveys of Chatto (2003). The site is in the wet tropics with an average of 1600 mm of rain along the coast during December to March. The swamp is fed by the Goyder and Gulbuwangay Rivers which terminate at the southern end of the swamp where the water disperses across a broad floodplain which narrows at the coast where it is constricted by bedrock. The swamp receives and retains water throughout the year and the Goyder River has the second-highest dry-season flow of any river in the Northern Territory. During the wet season there are extensive floods across the coastal plain where the swamp empties into the sea.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata resident  1998-2000  65,000-123,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Radjah Shelduck Radjah radjah resident  1998-2000  667-2,500 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus resident  1998-2000  585 individuals  medium  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Australian Ibis Threskiornis moluccus resident  1998-2000  22,680-49,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis resident  1998-2000  300-25,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus resident  1998-2000  3,690-25,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Royal Spoonbill Platalea regia resident  1998-2000  252-1,323 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Pied Heron Egretta picata resident  1998-2000  2,644-15,544 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Australian Bustard Ardeotis australis resident  1998-2008  common  A1  Least Concern 
Brolga Antigone rubicunda resident  1998-2000  2,220-7,300 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes non-breeding  1990-2002  800 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris non-breeding  1990-2002  4,500 individuals  A4i  Vulnerable 

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Melaleuca forests & woodlands  major
Wetlands (inland) Riverine floodplains  major
Coastline Intertidal mud, sand & salt flats  minor

Land ownership Arnhemland ALT

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
other major
Notes: Traditional use

Other biodiversity Brennan et al. (2002) recorded five native fish, 220 bird, 39 mammal, 72 reptile, 23 frog and 1,324 plant species in the wider Arafura catchment. These include the Vulnerable False Water Rat Xeromys myoides and a form of the Banded Rainbowfish Melanotaenia trifasciata which is endemic to the Goyder River. The IBA also holds numerous sites of high cultural value.

Access/Land-Owner requests This IBA is on Traditionally Owned land.

Acknowledgements The Yolngu people supported the research and publication of Brennan et al.(2003).

References Brennan, K., Woinarski, J., Hempel, C., Cowie, I. and Dunlop, C. (2003) Biological inventory of the Arafura swamp and catchment. Unpublished report: Natural Systems Biodiversity Unit, Northern Territory Government, Darwin.

Chatto, R. (2000) Waterbird breeding colonies in the Top End of the Northern Territory. Technical Report 69, Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, Palmerston.

Chatto, R. (2003) The distribution and status of shorebirds around the coast and coastal wetlands of the Northern Territory. Technical Report 73, Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, Palmerston.

Chatto, R. (2006) The distribution and status of waterbirds around the coast and coastal wetlands of the Northern Territory. Technical Report 76, Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, Palmerston.

DEWHA (2008) Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. http://www.environment.gov.au/water/publications/environmental/wetlands/database/ accessed 2008.

Harrison, L., McGuire, L., Ward, S. Fisher, A., Pavey, C., Fegan, M. and Lynch, B. (2009) An inventory of sites of international and national significance for biodiversity values in the Northern Territory. Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts & Sport, Darwin, NT.

Ward, S. and Harrison, L. (2009) Recognising sites of conservation significance for biodiversity values in the Northern Territory. Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts & Sport, Darwin, NT.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Arafura Swamp. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/10/2014

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