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Location Australia, New South Wales (and ACT),Queensland
Central coordinates 144o 17.00' East  29o 46.62' South
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i
Area 787,362 ha
Altitude 93 - 146m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary This large complex wetland supports up to 400,000 waterbirds and more than 1% of the world populations of the following congregatory waterbirds: Black Swan, Freckled Duck, Pink-eared Duck, Grey Teal, Australasian Shoveler, Hardhead, Red-necked Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Banded Stilt, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Red-capped Plover as well as six biome-restricted species.

Site description The Paroo River IBA contains the lower floodplain of the Paroo, including the Paroo Overflow lakes: Tongo, Yantangabee, Poloko, Gilpoko, Peery, Nine Mile, Dick and Copago Lakes and Mullawoolka Basin, and is extended to include all of the overlapping Currawinya and Paroo-Darling National Parks and Nocoleche Nature Reserve (these protected areas were listed as a Ramsar site in 2007). Though much attention is focused on the larger lakes, many smaller waterbodies support high waterbird diversity and, for some species, significant numbers (McDougall and Timms, 2001). It also includes the Yantabulla swamp and the Cuttaburra Creek floodplain, which floods about once every three years. The Paroo floodplain is a complex network of channels, wetlands and lakes on a vast floodplain area. The lake shores and channels support samphire, lignum, canegrass, other grasses, black-box and riparian woodland communities which flood seasonally. The area receives water from local rainfall or the Paroo River. The climate is arid, with low and very variable summer-dominant rainfall; the long-term mean annual rainfall at Currawinya is 278mm. In rare events, floodwaters from the Warrego River via the Cuttaburra Creek and Channels, or south from the Darling River, may enter the Overflow. The Overflow is a complex branched system, with direction of water flow governed by volume. The bulk of the water travels down the western branch to fill shallow channels, floodplain depressions and lakes. Ranging from 3.5 to 5.5 metres deep some of these lakes retain water for up to three years. Tongo, Yantabangee, Poloko, Gilpoko, Peery, Nine Mile, Dick and Copago Lakes, and Mullawoolka Basin are a chain of Overflow lakes on the western branch that are filled sequentially by floodwaters. This filling order may be reversed if floodwaters from the Darling River back up along the Paroo Overflow. The Currawinya National Park also includes Acacia-dominated shrublands mostly on sand sheets and dunes but with some areas of uplands. Kingsford et al. (1997) estimated 400,000 waterbirds in the system: Paroo River = 108,000, Paroo River Overflow = 29,000, Mullawooka Basin = 49,000, Lake Numalla = 25,600, Lake Peery = 35,900, Lake Poloko = 28,700, Lake Wyara = 85,000, Yantabulla Swamp estimate = 80,000, Yantangabee Lake = 35,000.

Key Biodiversity Species present in regionally important numbers include Australian Pelican (max 7400 in Currawinya), Eurasian Coot (12,987 in Currawinya) and Whiskered Tern (990 in Currawinya)(R. Johnson in litt. 2007). The vulnerable Painted Honeyeater and near threatened Grey Falcon and Australian Bustard are rare in the IBA (Atlas of Australian Birds database).

Non-bird biodiversity: A diverse reptile and frog fauna is documented for Currawinya National Park. In a relatively small mammal fauna, the koala and brush-tailed possum are notable as being at the western limits of their range in SW Queensland. A bilby Macrotis lagotis re-introduction project is underway. The Park contains several artesian discharge springs (Regional Ecosystem 6.3.23: Endangered -Nature Conservation Act (Qld))

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Black Swan Cygnus atratus resident  1987-1993  13,330 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Freckled Duck Stictonetta naevosa unknown  1987-1993  12,600 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Pink-eared Duck Malacorhynchus membranaceus unknown  1987-1993  52,470 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Australian Shoveler Spatula rhynchotis unknown  1987-1989  26,700 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Grey Teal Anas gracilis resident  1987-1993  47,600 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Hardhead Aythya australis unknown  1987-1993  19,700 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Blue-billed Duck Oxyura australis resident  1987-1993  150 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Himantopus leucocephalus unknown  1987-1993  7,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Not Recognised 
Banded Stilt Cladorhynchus leucocephalus non-breeding  1987-1993  4,700 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae unknown  1987-1993  14,540 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-capped Plover Charadrius ruficapillus unknown  2,380 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Inland Dotterel Peltohyas australis resident  1980-2008  uncommon  A3  Least Concern 
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata non-breeding  2000-2003  7,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia unknown  1983-2005  12,680 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Bourke's Parrot Neopsephotus bourkii resident  1980-2008  uncommon  A3  Least Concern 
Grey-headed Honeyeater Lichenostomus keartlandi resident  1980-2008  uncommon  A3  Least Concern 
Black Honeyeater Certhionyx niger unknown  1980-2008  frequent  A3  Least Concern 
Pied Honeyeater Certhionyx variegatus unknown  1980-2008  frequent  A3  Least Concern 
Slaty-backed Thornbill Acanthiza robustirostris resident  1980-2008  uncommon  A3  Least Concern 
Hall's Babbler Pomatostomus halli resident  1980-2008  frequent  A3  Least Concern 
Chirruping Wedgebill Psophodes cristatus resident  1980-2008  frequent  A3  Least Concern 
Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush Cinclosoma castaneothorax resident  1980-2008  uncommon  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

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

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 - abstraction of surface water (agricultural use) happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Currawinya National Park 151,300 protected area overlaps with site 146,335  
Nocoleche Nature Reserve 71,304 protected area overlaps with site 69,254  
Paroo-Darling National Park 176,516 protected area overlaps with site 89,460  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Acacia forests & woodlands; Eucalypt woodlands  major
Grassland Tussock grasslands  minor
Shrubland Acacia shrublands; Chenopod shrubs, samphire shrubs and forblands  major
Wetlands (inland) Ephemeral; Freshwater lakes & pools; Riverine floodplains; Saline lakes  major

Land ownership Privately owned grazing properties with the national parks under the control of State bodies - Currawinya NP = QPWS; Nocoleche and Paroo-Darling NPs = NSW NPWS.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
rangeland/pastureland major
nature conservation and research major
Notes: Ramsar site; National Parks

Protection status Te IBA overlaps the Currawinya and Paroo-Darling National Parks and the Nocoleche Nature Reserve.

Acknowledgements Richard Johnson drafted an IBA account for Currawinya NP; Richard Kingsford provided count data.

References DEWHA (2008) Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. accessed 2008.

Jaensch, R. (1998) An aerial and ground survey of waterbirds at Lakes Wyara and Numulla , Currawinya National Park, on 20-21 June 1998. Unpubl. report to Qld Dept of Environment.

Kingsford, R.T. and Porter, J.L. (1994) Waterbirds on an adjacent freshwater lake and salt lake in arid Australia. Biological Conservation 69: 219-228.

Kingsford, R.T. and Porter, J. (1999) Wetlands and waterbirds of the Paroo and Warrego Rivers. In 'Proceedings of the Paroo Scientific Workshop, Hungerford, Queensland. July 7-9 1997'. (Ed. R.T. Kingsford.) (New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service: Hurstville.)

Kingsford, R. T., Bedward, M. and Porter, J.L. (1994) Waterbirds and Wetlands in Northwestern New South Wales. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hurtsville, NSW.

Kingsford, R. T.,Thomas, R.F. and Wong, P.S. (1997) Significant wetlands for waterbirds in the Murray-Darling Basin. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hurtsville, NSW.

Maher, M.T. and Braithwaite, L.W. (1992) Patterns of waterbird use in wetlands of the Paroo, a river system of inland Australia. The Rangeland journal, 1992. v. 14 (2), p. 128-142.

McDougall, A. and Timms, B. (2001) The influence of turbid waters on waterbird numbers and diversity: a comparison of Lakes Yumberarra and Karatta, Currawinya National Park, south-west Queensland. Corella 25: 25-31.

QPWS (1992) Currawinya National Park Management Plan. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Brisbane.

Shelly, D. (2000) Comparative vertebrate fauna survey of the Paroo, Cobham and Gumbalara landsystems in the Western Division of New South Wales. Australian Zoologist, 31 (3): 470-481.

Wilson, J.R. (2000) Wader counts at Yantabulla Swamp (Cuttaburra Basin), New South Wales, Australia. Stilt 37: 32-33.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Paroo Floodplain and Currawinya. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016

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