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Location Australia, Queensland
Central coordinates 143o 45.94' East  13o 36.52' South
IBA criteria A4i, A4ii
Area 137 ha
Altitude 0 - 24m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary This series of small islands supports more than 1% of the global population of Pied (Torresian) Imperial-Pigeon, Brown Booby and Lesser Crested Tern.

Site description This IBA consists of a series of small islands in the Great Barrier Reef extending from Night Island, which lies off the coast of the McIlwraith Range, south to Burkitt Island, north of Port Stewart on the Cape York Peninsula. All islands which have a record of more than 1% of the world population of any seabird are listed in the IBA. There have been insufficient survey visits on most islands to determine whether they regularly support these numbers of seabirds, and whether other neighbouring islands also qualify; moreover many seabirds are naturally irregular and sometimes aseasonal in their breeding. There are other similar islands within this IBA and to the north and south which might occasionally qualify (including Chapman, Sherrard and Fife). Most islands are small sandy cays with variable amounts of harder coralline substrates, grass, herbs and vines, and some larger islands have Pisonia grandis trees. Most are low-lying between 0.5 and six metres above high water. Hannah is the exception reaching a high of 24 m. The islands included here are: Night Island (50 ha; mangroves, Pied Imperial-Pigeons), Lowrie Islet (1 ha; 3330 pairs Lesser Crested Tern in 1999), Sand Bank No. 7 (2 ha; unvegetated cay; 1000 pairs Lesser Crested Tern in 1987), Sand Bank No. 8 (3 ha; sandy cay with grasses and herbs; 1000-2000 pairs Brown Booby 1981-1995), Morris Island (2 ha; 1500 pairs Lesser Crested Tern in 1997), Hay Island 10 ha, Hannah Island (30 ha; 100,000 adult Pied Imperial-Pigeon in 1988), Burkitt Island (20 ha; 1000 pairs Lesser Crested Tern in 1987 and 2000 pairs in 1993), Pelican Island (8 ha sand cay with 23 species of grasses, herbs and shrubs; 3000 nests Lesser Crested Tern in 1976, 1290 pairs in 1987 and 1200 pairs in 1993) and Stainer Island (1 ha cay with grasses, herbs and shrubs; 3500 pairs Lesser Crested Tern in 1988, 1800 pairs in 1987 and 790 pairs in 1990). The climate is monsoonal, with the rainfall on the nearby mainland being sufficiently high to support rainforest. The IBA lies opposite the Iron & McIlwraith Ranges IBA, where the nesting Pied Imperial-Pigeons feed. Night, Sand Bank no. 7 and 8, Pelican and Burkitt are in the Marine National Park, others and all the surrounding seas are in the general use zone or habitat protection zone of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Key Biodiversity Also 5,000-10,000 pairs Sooty Terns on Sand Bank No.8; 5000 pairs Common Noddy on Sand Bank No. 8 in 1982, 1983 and 1984; 20-30 pairs Australian Pelican on Pelican Island in 1978-1982; and up to 500 pairs Bridled Tern estimated on Pelican Island in 1985.

Non-bird biodiversity: Estuarine Crocodile, Dugong, Green Turtle, Flatback Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle and Hawksbill Turtle.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster resident  1981-1995  1,000-2,000 breeding pairs  medium  A4ii  Least Concern 
Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis resident  1987-1999  790-3,330 breeding pairs  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Torresian Imperial-pigeon Ducula spilorrhoa resident  1979-1999  30,000-66,100 individuals  medium  A4ii  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2008 high 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) whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Claremont Isles National Park 48 protected area overlaps with site 44  
Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Site 34,870,000 protected area contains site 137  
Sandbanks National Park 11 protected area overlaps with site 4  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Coastline Mangrove wetlands; Sand cays, islets & bars  major

Land ownership Australian Federal Government with management the responsibility of GBRMPA.

Land use

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

Protection status The IBA overlaps with two protected areas.

Acknowledgements Stephen Garnett prepared the IBA nomination for Night Island. Paul O'Neill provided advice and access to the GBR seabird database.

References Abrahams, H., Mulvaney, M., Glasco, D. and Bugg, A. (1995) Areas of Conservation Significance on Cape York Peninsula. Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy, Office of the Co-ordinator General of Queensland, Brisbane and Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra.

GBRMPA (1997) Guidelines for Managing Visitation to Seabird Breeding Islands. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority unpublished report.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (2007) GBR Seabird Database (accessed May 2007).

King, B.R., Buckley, R.C. and Limpus, C.J. (1985) Pelican Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Corella 9: 78-79.

King, B.R. (1985) Stainer Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Corella 9: 81-82.

King, B.R. and Limpus, C.J. (1983) Sandbank no. 7, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Corella 7: 78-79.

King, B.R., Limpus, C.J. and Seton, D.H.C. (1985) Sandbank no. 8, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Corella 7: 76-77.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Islands North of Port Stewart. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016

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