email a friend
printable version
Location Australia, South Australia
Central coordinates 139o 26.53' East  35o 59.25' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3, A4i
Area 49,697 ha
Altitude 0 - 3m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary The Coorong has regularly supported >1% of the world population of Australian Shelduck, Chestnut Teal, Red-necked Stint, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Pied Oystercatcher, Banded Stilt, Red-necked Avocet and Red-capped Plover, and significant numbers of the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot, vulnerable Fairy Tern and near threatened Hooded Plover, although many are in steep decline from reduced freshwater inflows. Two sightings of the endangered Australasian Bittern were reported in Atlas of Australian Birds surveys undertaken from 1998 to 2008.

Site description This IBA is similar to the Coorong National Park but excludes some dry areas of the national park and includes the coastal Younghusband Peninusla as far south as the southernmost point of the park. The Coorong is a coastal lagoon inland of the coastal dunes of the Younghusband and Sir Richard Peninsulas, it extends for about 140 km south-east from the mouth of the River Murray and is up to 5 km wide and up to 3 m deep. It is separated from the freshwater Lake Alexandrina and the Murray by a series of barrages. The waters are seasonally fresh around the barrages at times of high flow, to brackish at the Murray mouth and hypersaline in the southern lagoon. Mud flats and shallow sandbars in the southern lagoon provide good shorebird habitat. However reduced inflows of fresh water has lead to an increase in salinity and a marked decrease in the system's importance to freshwater and brackish bird species. A total of 234,000 shorebirds was counted in 1982, declining to 38,000 in 2007 (Gosbell and Christie 2007). Salinisation has been caused by lack of fresh water inflow over Murray barrages and consequential restricted tidal inflow; and lack of inflow from natural catchment to south-east (Phillips and Muller 2006). Densities of Hooded Plovers decline southwards from the Murray mouth (Stephens et al. 2006), so the IBA is not extended further south beyond the limit of the Coorong, however there are several recent historic records of Orange-bellied Parrots along the coast to Kingston. The Morella basin has also supported large numbers of birds when wet, including 400 Freckled Duck in 2001 (Atlas of Australian Birds database).

Key Biodiversity The Coorong used to meet IBA criteria for Curlew Sandpiper (max 39,882 in 1981) but has steadily declined to 2,171 in 2007 (Gosbell and Christie 2007). Numbers of Australian Pelicans were high (2293-5649 in 2000-2005) and this has been the only permanent nesting sites in Australia, but have also crashed. It also supports regionally important numbers of many other shorebirds and waterbirds including annual counts of 2324-8461 Hoary-headed Grebe (but over 60,000 in 1980s), 59-218 Black-faced Cormorants, 15-402 Cape Barren Goose, 66-441 Musk Duck, 10,811-39,510 Grey Teal, 1300-5638 Crested Tern, 3163-4660 Whiskered Tern between 2000-2007 (Paton 2005, Rogers and Paton 2007). 18,000 unidentified terns were estimated from aerial surveys of north Coorong on 2007 (Kingsford and Porter 2008). The biome-restricted Rock Parrot is uncommon in the Coorong (D. Paton pers. comm. 2008; Atlas of Australian Birds database).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Australian Shelduck Tadorna tadornoides unknown  2000-2005  2,738-8,581 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Chestnut Teal Anas castanea unknown  2000-2007  3,037-21,304 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus unknown  1998-2008  rare  A1  Endangered 
Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris resident  1981-2007  544-742 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Banded Stilt Cladorhynchus leucocephalus resident  1981-2007  2,354-250,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae resident  1981-2007  93-6,030 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Hooded Plover Thinornis cucullatus resident  1988-2007  50-82 individuals  A1  Vulnerable 
Red-capped Plover Charadrius ruficapillus resident  1981-2007  474-4,677 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis non-breeding  1981-2007  17,478-63,794 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata non-breeding  1981-2007  3,848-33,897 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Fairy Tern Sternula nereis resident  2000-2007  100-150 breeding pairs  medium  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Orange-bellied Parrot Neophema chrysogaster non-breeding  1979-2007  20 individuals  medium  A1, A3  Critically Endangered 
Rufous Bristlebird Dasyornis broadbenti resident  1998-2008  frequent  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Striated Fieldwren Calamanthus fuliginosus resident  uncommon  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2013 high not assessed not assessed

Climate change and severe weather drought likely in long term (beyond 4 years) majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration high
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of ground 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)  
Coorong National Park 48,958 protected area overlaps with site 49,697  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland Other shrublands  minor
Coastline Estuarine waters; Intertidal mud, sand & salt flats; Salt marshes  major

Land ownership Owned by the South Australian State Government and managed by the Department for Environment and Heritage (DEH).

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 100%

Protection status The IBA overlaps with most of Coorong National Park.

Acknowledgements The nomination was prepared by Ken Gosbell. Australasian Wader Studies Group, Ken Gosbell and DEH south-east have organised and undertaken the annual shorebird counts. David Paton has provided data and advice. Brenton Grear (DEH, Mt Gambier/Adelaide)acted as a consultant.

References Buick, A.M. and Paton, D.C. (1989) Impact of off-road vehicles on the nesting success of Hooded Plovers Charadrius rubricollis in the Coorong region of South Australia. Emu 89: 159–172.

Department for Environment, Heritage and Aboriginal Affairs (2005) Coorong and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert wetland of international importance. Draft report, October 2005. Department for Environment, Heritage and Aboriginal Affairs: Adelaide.

Gosbell, K. and Christie, M. (2006) The Breeding of Banded Stilt and Red-Necked Avocet in the Coorong, South Australia: December 2005 – February 2006. Stilt 50: 277-284.

Gosbell, K. and Christie, M. (2007) Report on wader surveys in the Coorong & S.E. Coastal Lakes. February 2007. Australasian Waders Studies Group unpublished report: Melbourne.

Gosbell, K., Collins, P. and Christie, M. (2003) Wader surveys in the Coorong & S.E. Coastal Lakes. February 2003. Australasian Waders Studies Group unpublished report: Melbourne.

Kingsford, R.T. and Porter, J.L. (2008) Survey of waterbird communities of the Living Murray icon sites - November 2007. Unpublished report to Murray-Darling Basin Commission. University of NSW: Sydney.

Paton, D.C. (2005) Monitoring of biotic systems in the Coorong region 2004-2005. University of Adelaide: unpublished report.

Phillips, W. and Muller, K. (2006) Ecological character of the Coorong and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert wetland of international importance. Department for Environment and Heritage: Adelaide.

Rogers, R.J. and Paton, D.C. (2007) Monitoring the Waterbirds of the Coorong, with particular reference to indicator species for the CLLAMM Icon Site. University of Adelaide: unpublished report.

Seymour, J., Paton, D. C. and Rogers, D. J. (2003) The conservation status of the Rufous Bristlebird, Dasyornis broadbenti, in South Australia. Emu 103: 315–321.

Stephens, E., Graham, A. and Seaman, R. (2006) Hooded Plover data analysis 2002-2005, Coorong Ocean Beach, South Australia. Department for Environment and Heritage: Adelaide.

Wainwright, P. (2008) Latest survey suggests further decline in wader abundance at the Coorong, South Australia. Tattler 9: 3.

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: Coorong. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016

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