|Location||Australia, New South Wales (and ACT)|
|Central coordinates||151o 43.08' East 32o 50.99' South|
|IBA criteria||A1, A4i|
|Altitude||0 - 43m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2009|
Summary The estuary and swamps support the endangered Australasian Bittern and more than 1% of the world population of Chestnut Teal, Red-necked Avocet, Eastern Curlew and sometimes Latham's Snipe, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Straw-necked Ibis.
Site description The IBA contains the adjacent lower Hunter Estuary (with the boundary including all intertidal areas and swamps used by the key shorebirds and Australasian Bittern) and Hexham Swamp. The Hunter Estuary is recognised as the most important area in NSW for shorebirds (Smith 1991). As many as 4,800 migratory shorebirds have been recorded by Straw (2000). The IBA contains the Ramsar listed 2926 hectare Kooragang Nature Reserve, the North Arm of the Hunter River, from Hexham to Stockton Bridge, and associated wetlands. A large shallow circular bay to the north, Fullerton Cove, provides the main shorebird foraging site in the estuary. The North and South Arms surround Kooragang Island, an important foraging and roosting area for shorebirds and waterfowl. The Kooragang Dykes and Stockton Sandspit, located immediately upstream of Stockton Bridge are the most important sites for the majority of roosting shorebirds in the estuary. Most of the estuary is covered by tidal ponds, saltmarsh and mangoves. Tides at Kooragang Island range from 0.1m to 2m, average annual rainfall at Williamtown is 1088 mm and annual mean temperature ranges from 12 to 23 oC. Hexham Swamp is one of the largest freshwater swamps on the coast of New South Wales, and comprises about 45 per cent of all the remaining freshwater wetland habitat in the Hunter Valley. This section of the IBA is estimated to cover 2100ha. The swamp also contains estuarine habitat (eastern part adjacent to the Hunter River) which forms a strong ecological link with the western end of Kooragang Nature Reserve through Ash Island. Hexham Swamp Nature Reserve comprises about 900 hectares of Hexham Swamp. Freshwater swamps in the nature reserve are contiguous with Pambalong Nature Reserve to the west, The Hunter Wetlands Centre to the southeast and Newcastle Wetlands Reserve also to the southeast.
Key Biodiversity Major non-breeding foraging site for migratory waders such as Eastern Curlew, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Great Knot, Red Knot, Terek Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Pacific Golden Plover, Double-banded Plover and Latham’s Snipe. Non-migratory waders include Red-necked Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Red-capped Plover, Pied Oystercatcher, Sooty Oystercatcher and occasional Australian Painted Snipe. Terns include Whiskered Tern, Gull-billed Tern and Caspian Tern. Waterfowl include Australasian Grebe, Hoary-headed Grebe, Musk Duck, Pink-eared Duck, Hardhead Australasian Shoveler, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Blue-billed Duck and Freckled Duck. Raptors include Osprey, Wedge-tailed Eagle, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Whistling Kite, Swamp Harrier, Spotted Harrier, Brown Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, Australian Hobby, Brown Falcon, Black Falcon, Nankeen Kestrel, Black-shouldered Kite, and the most southerly occurrence of the Brahminy Kite. The Black-necked Stork is an occasional visitor. Red-backed Button-quail and Grass Owls have been recently recorded; both are at their southernmost limit of occurrence. Thousands of Australian White Ibis and a lesser number of Glossy Ibis roost at Hexham Swamp, which supports breeding colonies of Great Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Australian White Ibis and cormorants, small numbers of Magpie Geese and a roost of Rufous Night-Herons.
Non-bird biodiversity: Remnant dry littoral rainforest, small stands of Casuarina forest, extensive and expanding mangroves and decreasing saltmarsh. The endangered Green and Golden Bellfrog. Many species of microchiropteron bats. A variety of fish and decapod crustacean species. Hexham Swamp hosts 53 mammal species, 14 reptile species, 11 frog species, 6 prawn and shrimp species and 32 fish species.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Chestnut Teal Anas castanea||non-breeding||2001-2005||1,000-1,600 individuals||good||A4i||Least Concern|
|Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis||non-breeding||2005-2007||11,856 individuals||good||A4i||Least Concern|
|Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus||unknown||2002-2007||6 individuals||poor||A1||Endangered|
|Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae||non-breeding||2000-2006||104-4,960 individuals||good||A4i||Least Concern|
|Latham's Snipe Gallinago hardwickii||non-breeding||1997-2007||7-475 individuals||medium||A4i||Least Concern|
|Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis||non-breeding||2000-2006||383-786 individuals||good||A4i||Vulnerable|
|Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata||non-breeding||2002-2007||1,800 individuals||medium||A4i||Least Concern|
|2008||medium||not assessed||not assessed|
|Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data|
|Invasive and other problematic species and genes||invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species||happening now||some of area/population (10-49%)||slow but significant deterioration||medium|
|Invasive and other problematic species and genes||problematic native species/diseases - named species||happening now||small area/few individuals (<10%)||slow but significant deterioration||low|
|Natural system modifications||dams & water management/use - small dams||happening now||some of area/population (10-49%)||slow but significant deterioration||medium|
|Residential and commercial development||commercial and industrial development||likely in long term (beyond 4 years)||some of area/population (10-49%)||moderate to rapid deterioration||medium|
|Transportation and service corridors||roads and railroads||likely in long term (beyond 4 years)||small area/few individuals (<10%)||moderate to rapid deterioration||low|
|Protected area||Designation||Area (ha)||Relationship with IBA||Overlap with IBA (ha)|
|Hexham Swamp||Nature Reserve||908||protected area contained by site||900|
|Kooragang||Nature Reserve||3,358||protected area contained by site||2,926|
|Newcastle Wetlands Reserve Nature Reserve||Nature Reserve||40||protected area contained by site||40|
|Pambalong||Nature Reserve||34||protected area contained by site||35|
|The Hunter Wetlands Centre Nature Reserve||Nature Reserve||45||protected area contained by site||45|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Artificial - terrestrial||Improved grassland & pasture; Other urban & industrial areas||19%|
|Forest||Casuarina forests & woodlands||3%|
|Wetlands (inland)||Freshwater lakes & pools; Permanent herbaceous swamps & bogs; Salt marshes||42%|
|Coastline||Estuarine waters; Intertidal mud, sand & salt flats; Mangrove wetlands||36%|
Land ownership Hunter Estuary: NSW State Government, Regional Land Management Corporation, private. Hexham Swamp: Hunter Central Rivers CMA, Newcastle City Council, Shortlands Wetlands Centre Ltd, NPWS (NSW State govt), Hunter District Water Board, Australian Rail Track Corporation, Broadcast Australia Ltd, State of NSW, private ownership.
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
|Notes: prawn and crab fishing supports several boats|
|Notes: cattle grazing|
|nature conservation and research||major|
|Notes: boat trips and fishing|
|Notes: power transmission lines|
Protection status Kooragang Nature Reserve
Hexham Swamp Nature Reserve
Pambalong Nature Reserve
Newcastle Wetlands Reserve Nature Reserve
The Hunter Wetlands Centre Nature Reserve
Acknowledgements Hunter Bird Observers Club and Max Maddock have collected much of the bird data. The nomination was prepared by Chris Herbert and Elizabeth Crawford.
References Crawford, E.A. (in prep) Shorebird Surveys in the Hunter Estuary 1999 - 2006.
Kingsford, R.T., Ferster Levy, R., Geering, D., Davis, S.T. and Davis, J.S.E. (1998) Rehabilitating estuarine habitat on Kooragang Island for waterbirds, including migratory wading birds (May 1994 - May 1997). Unpublished report: National Parks and Wildlife Service.
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (1998) Kooragang Nature Reserve and Hexham Swamp Nature Reserve Plan of Management (unpubl.)
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (2004) Pambalong Nature Reserve Draft Plan of Management.
Shortland Wetlands Centre Consultancy (1995) Review of Environmental Factors Stockton Bridge Sandspit - Migratory Shorebird Habitat Rehabilitation. Report for Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project and National Parks and Wildlife Service (unpubl.).
Smith, P. (1991) The biology and management of waders (Suborder Charadrii) in NSW. NSW NPWS Species management report number 9 (unpubl.).
Straw, P. (2000) Hunter Estuary Wader Habitat Investigation Stage 2. Unpublished report: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Stuart, A. (1998) Hunter Region of New South Wales Annual Bird Report (1997). Hunter Bird Observers Club.
Stuart, A. (2004) Birds of Ash Island. Hunter Bird Observers Club Special Report No. 2.
Stuart, A. (2005) Hunter Region of New South Wales Annual Bird Report (2004). Hunter Bird Observers Club.
Stuart, A. (2006) Hunter Region of New South Wales Annual Bird Report (2005). Hunter Bird Observers Club.
SWC Consultancy (2002) Distribution of the Australasian Bittern in the lower Hunter. Report for Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project and Port Waratah Coal Services.
Todd, M. (1998) Feeding ecology of Latham's Snipe Gallinago hardwickii in the lower Hunter Valley, NSW. Unpublished report: Australasian Wader Studies Group.
WBM Oceanics Australia. (1998). Environmental Impact Statement for the rehabilitation of Hexham Swamp. WBM Oceanics Australia.
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Hunter Estuary. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/12/2014
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