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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 2008

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.

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  Least Concern 
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 

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%

Other biodiversity The entire population of the Lake Eyre Dragon is concentrated around Lake Eyre and nearby saltlakes.

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 (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Eyre. Downloaded from on 20/09/2014

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