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Location Australia, Northern Territory
Central coordinates 136o 46.49' East  15o 53.70' South
IBA criteria A2, A4i
Area 99,435 ha
Altitude 0 - 10m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary These intertidal mudflats have supported more than 1% of the world population of Grey-tailed Tattler, Eastern Curlew and Great Knot, as well as moderate numbers of the near threatened Asian Dowitcher. However, the area is poorly surveyed and the regularity of these numbers is unknown.

Site description This IBA comprises the intertidal mudflats around Port McArthur along the Gulf of Carpentaria coast from Mule Creek (east of Bing Bong homestead) eastwards to an unnamed tidal creek about 30 km east of Pelican Spit. It includes the immediately coastal saline wetlands but not the extensive inland wetlands, which were "not observed to have large numbers of shorebirds" (Chatto 2003). The intertidal mudflats are up to 5 km wide (widest near river mouths) and connect across the South-West Island of the Sir Edward Pellew group.

Key Biodiversity The near threatened Great-billed Heron occurs in the greatest densities recorded in extensive coastal surveys in the Northern Territory. Small numbers of the near threatened Beach Stone-curlew occur. Little Tern breeds at a small number of sites along the coast. At least two substantial waterbird breeding rookeries supporting a total of more than 3000 adult birds (egrets, cormorants and Pied Herons). The highest number of shorebirds counted was 27,500 in 50-75% of the potential shorebird habitat in October 1996 (Chatto 2003) including 1600 sand plover species, 1500 Curlew Sandpipers, 4000 knot species, 1094 Marsh Sandpipers (Chatto 2000b). A total of 10,000 shorebirds counted in aerial surveys in 2007 included an estimated 2200 Great Knot (Garnett & Coe 2007). Significant numbers of Black-tailed Godwit have been reported with a maximum count of 5230 in October 1996 (Chatto 2000b; 2003) and 1855 estimated from aerial surveys in August 2007 (Garnett & Coe 2007). Non-waterbird species recorded at the site include White-gaped Honeyeater and Australian Yellow White-eye (Atlas of Australian Birds database).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Chestnut Rail Eulabeornis castaneoventris resident  frequent  A2  Least Concern 
Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes non-breeding  1990-2007  113-1,786 individuals  poor  A4i  Near Threatened 
Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis non-breeding  1990-2007  77-407 individuals  poor  A4i  Endangered 
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata non-breeding  1990-2007  782-1,841 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2008 medium not assessed not assessed
Medium - based upon reliable but incomplete / partially representative data

Climate change and severe weather storms and floods likely in long term (beyond 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Coastline Intertidal mud, sand & salt flats; Mangrove wetlands  major
Shrubland Chenopod shrubs, samphire shrubs and forblands  minor

Land ownership Traditional and private ownership.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
rangeland/pastureland major
Notes: Land = Bing Bong, Manangoora and Greenbank pastoral leases
other major
Notes: Traditional use
fisheries/aquaculture minor
nature conservation and research minor

Access/Land-Owner requests This IBA is on Traditionally Owned land and Bing Bong, Manangoora and Greenbank pastoral leases.

References Chatto, R. (2000a) 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. (2000b) A management strategy and protected areas system for coastal wildlife. (Documentation of selected sites in the Northern Territory of Australia which would qualify for nomination under the East Asian - Australasian Shorebird Site Network). Unpublished report, 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.

DEWHA (2008) Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. Port McArthur Tidal Wetlands System - NT008. accessed 2008.

Garnett, S.T. and Coe, K. (2007) Monitoring program to assess the impact of metal pollution at Bing Bong Loading Facility on Listed Migratory Birds. Report of Survey 30-31 August 2007 to McArthur River Mining Pty Ltd. Unpublished report. Darwin: Charles Darwin University.

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 (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Port McArthur Tidal Wetlands System. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016

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