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Location Australia, South Australia
Central coordinates 137o 18.79' East  28o 35.92' South
IBA criteria A4i
Area 930,488 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary When flooded, Lake Eyre supports major breeding events of the congregatory Banded Stilt and Australian Pelican, and more than 1% of the global populations of the congregatory Silver Gull, Red-necked Avocet, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint and Caspian Tern.

Site description The IBA is identical to Lake Eyre, which is located in central South Australia. The boundary of the IBA excludes dryland areas of Lake Eyre National Park and Elliott Price Conservation Park. Lake Eyre is both the largest saltlake and, at 15 m below sea level, the lowest point in Australia. It is a terminal catchment for various river systems in the arid region of central Australia, which are usually dry but occasionally flood. Lake Eyre floods from strong rainfall in the Queensland catchments (usually in La Niña years), or from local rain. It is flooded on average about once every eight years, but has been filled to capacity on only three occasions in the past 150 years. When flooding begins, the waters of Lake Eyre are almost fresh and can support freshwater fish carried to the lake by associated rivers. The salinity of the waters then increases as the salt crust dissolves, and brine shrimps hatch and breed unless depredated by fish from inflowing rivers. When over 4 m deep the lake is less salty than the sea but the salinity increases as the water evaporates. Many of the colonial birds nest on low, sparsely vegetated islands in the lake.

Key Biodiversity Species that have met 1% thresholds on single occasions (but may prove to regularly meet these numbers during floods) include: Pink-eared Duck, 64 to 18,136 in eight counts in 1990-1991 (Kingsford & Porter 1993) and 4412 in 1984 (Braithwaite et al. 1985); Grey Teal, maximum 82,257 in 1990-1991 (Kingsford & Porter 1993); Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Lane (1987) gives average count of 4000 and 1000 in one flock in 1977 (Badman 1979); Whiskered Tern, many tens of thousands in 1977 (Badman 1979), 2000 in 1984 (Braithwaite et al. 1985) and 1747 in 1990/91 (Kingsford & Porter 1993); and possible Red-necked Stint. The IBA supports notable breeding numbers of Gull-billed Tern with a maximum count of 1261 in 1984 (Braithwaite et al. 1985; Kingsford & Porter 1993). A total 125,000 migratory shorebirds were counted in December 1990 (Kingsford and Porter 1993). The biome-restricted Banded Whiteface (recorded in three of 32 Atlas of Australian Birds surveys, 1998 to 2008), Chirruping Wedgebill (recorded in four of 32 Atlas of Australian Birds surveys, 1998 to 2008), Cinnamon Quail-thrush (recorded in nine of 32 Atlas of Australian Birds surveys, 1998 to 2008) and Gibberbird (recorded in one of 32 Atlas of Australian Birds surveys, 1998 to 2008) have been recorded at Lake Eyre, but their status within the zones mapped for the IBA (i.e. the lake bed and associated low islands) is unclear.

Non-bird biodiversity: The entire population of the Lake Eyre Dragon is concentrated around Lake Eyre and nearby saltlakes.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus breeding  1984-2000  104,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Banded Stilt Cladorhynchus leucocephalus breeding  1984-2000  78,874 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae breeding  1977-2004  95,600 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis non-breeding  1974-1984  12,000 individuals  poor  A4i  Near Threatened 
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata non-breeding  1970-1990  7,000 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Larus novaehollandiae breeding  1974-2000  25,000 breeding pairs  poor  A4i  Not Recognised 
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia breeding  1976-1990  9,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2008 high not assessed not assessed
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases problematic native species/diseases - named species happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Elliot Price Conservation Park 63,450 protected area overlaps with site 43,830  
Lake Eyre National Park 1,348,840 protected area contains site 874,660  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Ephemeral; Saline lakes  major

Land ownership South Australian Government with management the responsibility of the Department for Environment and Heritage.

Land use

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

Protection status The IBA covers large sections of Lake Eyre National Park and the Elliot Price Conservation Area.

Access/Land-Owner requests There are no public access tracks into Elliott Price Conservation Park.

References Badman, F.J. (1979) Birds of the southern and western Lake Eyre drainage. South Australian Ornithologist 28: 29-55, 57-81.

Baxter, C.I. (2003) Banded Stilt Cladorhynchus leucocephalus breeding at Lake Eyre North in year 2000. South Australian Ornithologist 34: 33-56.

Blakers, M., Davies, S.J.J.F. and Reilly, P.N. (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne University Press: Melbourne.

Braithwaite, L.W., Maher, M.T. and Parker, B.S. (1985) An aerial survey of of wetland bird fauna in eastern Australia. October 1984. CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Rangelands Technical Memorandum 23.

Glover, C.J.M. (1989) Aquatic fauna. Pp. 94-96. In: Bonython, C.W. and Fraser, A.S. (eds) The Great Filling of Lake Eyre in 1974. Royal Geographical Society of Australasia: Adelaide.

Kingsford, R.T. and Porter, J.L. (1993) Waterbirds of Lake Eyre, Australia. Biological Conservation 65: 141-151.

Kingsford, R.T. and Porter, J.L. (2006) Eastern Australian aerial survey database. Accessed 2006.

Kingsford, R.T., Porter, J.L., Smith, J.D.B. and Lawler, W. (1990) An aerial survey of wetland birds in eastern Australia - October 1989. New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service Occasional Paper 9.

Lane, B.A. (1987) Shorebirds in Australia. Nelson: Melbourne.

Serventy, V. (1985) The Desert Sea: the Miracle of Lake Eyre in Flood. MacMillan: Melbourne.

Waterman, M.H. and Read, J.L. (1992) Breeding success of the Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) on Lake Eyre South in 1990. Corella 16: 123-126.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Lake Eyre. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016

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