email a friend
printable version
Location Australia, New South Wales (and ACT)
Central coordinates 149o 26.46' East  29o 19.50' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i
Area 102,120 ha
Altitude 160 m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary The Gwydir Wetlands support more breeding waterbirds than any other site in Australia when they receive adequate water inflows. Over half a million nesting waterbirds have been estimated including more than 1% of the world's Rufous Night-Herons, Intermediate Egrets, Australian White Ibis and Straw-necked Ibis. The endangered Australasian Bittern has been recorded there but the current status is unknown.

Site description This IBA consists of the inland drainage basin of the Gwydir River that splits into the Gingham (northern) and the Big Leather (southern) water courses - during flood times these form a wetland of over 100,000 ha about 45 km west of Moree. These extensive wetland areas are a particularly good example of an inland terminal delta, located along the watercourses where flat, overland grades allow shallow extensive flooding over large areas of the floodplain. Water extends for approximately 95 km through a series of natural and constructed channels and swamps (NPWS unpublished). As a result, intermittent semi-permanent wetlands have developed. Prior to the construction of the Copeton Dam (a 1364 Gigalitre dam approximately 90 km downstream of the headwaters of the Gwydir River), the Gwydir catchment could have been described as an inland delta or a closed system. Since the building of the dam, water flows have been controlled by NSW State Government water authorities to the detriment of the wetlands. Despite the consequent contraction of wetland areas from about 100,000ha to 10,000ha, it is still considered to be one of the most significant and most valuable waterbird breeding area in Australia. Windella, Crinolyn, Old Dromana and Goddard's Lease are four small wetlands listed as a 823 hectare Ramsar site, which are well outside the main waterbird breeding area but provide vital feeding areas for the breeding birds. Waterbird nesting colonies are usually confined to areas surrounding permanent waterholes such as the Gingham Waterhole.

Key Biodiversity Australian Painted Snipe and Painted Honeyeater have been recorded here, but not yet in sufficient numbers to meet IBA thresholds, and the status of the biome-restricted Pied Honeyeater and Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush is unknown. The NSW Bird Atlas has recorded 237 bird species within the wetlands of which 169 species have been recorded breeding. Over 1500 Glossy Ibis, 280 Royal Spoonbill and 80 Yellow-billed Spoonbill have been recorded. In December 1995, 2000 pairs of Little Egrets and 5000 pairs of Great Egrets (Morris & Burton 1997).

Non-bird biodiversity: 53 species of reptiles, 18 native frogs, 16 native mamamls and 15 bat species have been recorded with at least 12 being threatened.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Australian Ibis Threskiornis moluccus breeding  1998  125,000-160,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis breeding  1998  230,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus unknown  rare  A1  Endangered 
Mesophoyx intermedia breeding  1998  46,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Not Recognised 
Rufous Night-heron Nycticorax caledonicus breeding  1998  92,000-108,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high not assessed not assessed

Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - large dams happening now whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid deterioration very high


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Eucalypt woodlands  major
Introduced vegetation   minor
Wetlands (inland) Ephemeral; Riverine floodplains; Rivers & streams  major

Land ownership Private stations including "Yarrol", "Lynworth" and parts of "Old Dromana" and "Bunoor".

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research minor
Notes: eg Ramsar sites
agriculture major
rangeland/pastureland minor

Access/Land-Owner requests The wetlands are contained in the properties "Yarrol", "Lynworth" and parts of "Old Dromana" and "Boonoke" but the surrounding areas are important feeding areas.

Acknowledgements Thanks to Dick Cooper and Chris Brandis, NSW Bird Atlassers for compiling the nominations. Thanks also to the NSW Bird Atlassers for monitoring on three occasions; most recently November 1998 to February 1999.

References Bennett, M and Green, J. (1993) Preliminary Assessment of Gwydir Wetlands Water Needs. Department of Water Resources, Technical Services Division.

Blackburn, H. (1999) Diary of waterbird observations in the Gingham Watercourse: February-November 1998. NSW Field Ornithologists Club Inc. Newsletter: 171: 10-12.

DEWHA (2008) Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. accessed 2008. Gwydir Wetlands: Gingham and Lower Gwydir (Big Leather) Watercourses Ramsar Information Sheet.

Keyte, P.A. (1994) Lower Gwydir Plan of Management - 1994 to 1997. Report by NSW Department of Water Resources for the Lower Gwydir Wetland Steering Committee. Sydney.

Morris, A.K. and Burton, A. (1997) NSW Annual Bird Report 1995. Aust. Birds 30: 81-149.

McCosker, R.O. and Duggin, J.A. (1993) Gingham Watercourse Management Plan. Final Report. November 1993. Armidale: Department of Ecosystem Management, University of New England.

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Gwydir Wetlands. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife