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Location Australia, Commonwealth
Central coordinates 149o 56.80' East  16o 50.85' South
IBA criteria A4i, A4ii
Area 124 ha
Altitude 0 - 5m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

BirdLife Australia

Summary The Coringa-Herald Reefs IBA regularly supports more than 1% of the world population of Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Red-footed Booby, Lesser Frigatebird, Red-tailed Tropicbird and Black Noddy.

Site description The Coringa-Herald Reefs IBA is in the Coral Sea, about 400 km east of Cairns. The IBA comprises of North East Cay and South West Cay in the Herald Cays and South East Cay in the Magdelaine Cays. All three cays are part of Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserve. This reserve comprises 8856 km2 of sea and reefs with three sand cays and another three islets, ranging from 16-37 ha and covering a total area of 124 ha. The islets are made up of coral sand, rocks and coral rubble. North East Herald Cay (NEH 16 56’ 40 S, 149 11’ 37 E) and parts of South East Magdelaine Cay have thick forests of Pisonia and Cordia. Forest also formerly occurred on South West Coringa Cay but was destroyed by scale insects. South West Coringa Cay supported only modest numbers of breeding seabirds when surveyed in 1999 (a few boobies, no frigatebirds and 1000 Black Noddy), and so has been excluded from the IBA. Grasses and low shrubs grow on other islets, including South West Herald Cay (SWH 17 00’ 00 S, 149 08’ 00 E), but North West Magdelaine Islet is devoid of vegetation. In 2007, 16-year and 5-year seabird monitoring datasets were available for North East Herald Cay and South West Herald Cay, respectively, but seabirds are poorly known elsewhere. Cyclones are regular; the last significant impact was Tropical Cyclone Aivu in 1989 which caused extensive damage to the forest on North East Herald Cay. Some seabirds declined after an extreme El Nino Southern Oscillation event in 1997. The IBA also excludes Lihou Reef National Nature Reserve (which lies 100 km south-east of Coringa-Herald) and other unprotected cays and reefs in the Coral Sea as these support only small numbers of nesting seabirds. However, islets in the Lihou Reef group and East Diamond Islet have supported nesting Fairy Terns and would be included in an IBA if further surveys indicate where this vulnerable species is nesting in significant numbers.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Wedge-tailed Shearwater Ardenna pacifica resident  2001-2003  9,500-19,500 breeding pairs  medium  A4ii  Least Concern 
Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda resident  1992-2007  389-450 breeding pairs  good  A4ii  Least Concern 
Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel resident  1992-2007  1,000-2,150 breeding pairs  good  A4ii  Least Concern 
Red-footed Booby Sula sula resident  1992-2007  3,364-3,940 breeding pairs  good  A4ii  Least Concern 
Black Noddy Anous minutus resident  1992-2007  10,000-22,000 breeding pairs  good  A4i  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserve 885,249 protected area contains site 124  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Coastline Sand cays, islets & bars  major
Forest Other forests & woodlands  major
Shrubland Other shrublands  major

Land ownership Australian Federal Government managed by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

Land use

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

Other biodiversity Nesting Green Turtles.

Protection status The IBA overlaps with Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserve.

Access/Land-Owner requests Access is strictly regulated.

Acknowledgements Barry Baker kindly provided count data and comments.

References Baker, G.B., Double. M., Gales, R. and Hallam, M. (2003) Seabird monitoring program - Coral Sea Island Territory. Report on 2003 field season and update of Herald Cays longitudinal datasets for the period 1992 to 2003. Unpublished report.

Baker, G.B., Double. M., Gales, R. and Hallam, M. (2004) Seabird monitoring programe – Coral Sea island Territory. Report on 2003 field season and update of Herald Cays longitudinal datasets for the period 1992 to 2003. Canberra: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage & the Arts. Unpublished report.

Baker, B., Holdsworth, M., Finley, L. and Double, M. (2008) Seabird monitoring study at Coringa Herald National Nature Reserve. Canberra: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage & the Arts. Unpublished report.

Carter, M. and Mustoe, S. (2007) Another form of Fairy Tern Sterna nereis breeding in Australian Territory. Australian Field Ornithology 24: 167–179.

Comben, L. (ed.) (2001) Herald Cays Scientific Studies Report. Geography Monograph Series 6. Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, Brisbane.

Environment Australia (2001) Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserve and Lihou Reef National Nature Reserve Management Plan. Environment Australia: Canberra.

Greenslade, P. (2008) Climate variability, biological control and an insect pest outbreak on Australia’s Coral Sea islets: lessons for invertebrate conservation. J. Insect Conservation DOI 10.1007/s10841-008-9157-2.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Coringa-Herald Reefs. Downloaded from on 31/10/2014

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