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Location Australia, South Australia
Central coordinates 140o 11.63' East  27o 5.96' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3, A4i
Area 59,318 ha
Altitude 25 - 120m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary These lakes have supported more than 1% of the world populations of 12 species of waterbird and shorebird but data are sparse. It also supports populations of the vulnerable Australian Painted Snipe, the near threatened Blue-billed Duck, the restricted-range Eyrean Grasswren and five species restricted to the arid biome.

Site description This IBA is comprised of a large part of the Coongie Lakes National Park, centred on Lake Goolangirie (= Lake Goyder) and adjacent lakes of known waterbird importance, on the lower Cooper Creek system in north-east South Australia. The IBA could be extended to include the maximum extent of ephemerally flooded waterbodies and channels extending south across Innamincka Regional Reserve to the Strzelecki Desert Lakes IBA but there is inadequate survey data from most of this region. The Coongie Lakes system receives flows most years from Cooper Creek via its North West Branch which carries floodwaters to Tirrawarra Swamp and then north to the lakes. Lakes Coongie, Marroocoolcannie, Marroocutchanie, Toontoowaranie and Goyder fill regularly, whereas Lake Marradibbadibba is mainly dry. Other important lakes include Lakes Apanburra, Marradibbadibba, Lady Blanche, Sir Richard and Sturt Ponds. Cooper Creek is the longest and most important dryland river in Australia and one of the largest endorheic catchments in the world. The system consists of a series of channels and permanent and temporary waterholes with floodplains, gibber plains, sand plains and inland sand dunes. The vegetation consists of a mixture of grasses, herbs, open shrubland and open woodland, with grasses, herbs and low shrubs dominant in arid areas, and open woodland concentrated around channels, waterholes and areas of more frequent inundation. The soils are deep, cracking, grey clays (dry lake beds) and siliceous sands (dunefields). The IBA experiences an arid climate with warm to hot temperatures and mean annual rainfall of 100-150 mm. Over 100,000 waterbirds were estimated in the summers 1990/91, 1991/92, 1997/98, 2000/01 and 2001/02. The IBA is largely within the Innamincka Regional Reserve and wholly within the Coongie Lakes Ramsar site which covers almost 2 million hectares.

Key Biodiversity The first specimen of the critically endangered Night Parrot was collected in the Coongie Lakes System on Captain Charles Sturt's expedition in 1845, and there were two possible observations there in 1987 (Reid 2000a; J. Reid in litt. 2009). The region also supports numbers of the endangered Plains-wanderer (one record of two birds in 1976, Bennett 1983); the near threatened Letter-winged Kite (rare to uncommon breeding visitor; Cox and Pedler 1977; Badman 1989; J. Reid in litt. 2009), Grey Falcon (rare but has been recorded breeding; Badman 1989; J. Reid in litt. 2009; Atlas of Australian Birds database), Bush Thick-knee (presumed rare breeding resident based on a limited number of observations made over the past few decades; Badman and May 1983; Badman 1989; J. Reid in litt. 2009; S. Parker unpublished) and Painted Honeyeater (two records of passage birds; J. Reid in litt. 2009); the biome-restricted Black Honeyeater (uncommon; Atlas of Australian Birds database); and the uncommon Yellow Chat (several birds in grassy dry lake bed of Lake Toontoowaranie in 2003; J. Reid in litt. 2009). The IBA supports notable numbers of several other species including 3501 Australian Pratincole counted on Coongie Lakes system in November 1997 but estimated to be 7000 (Reid 2000b); 2500 Flock Bronzewing in Coongie Lakes in autumn 1987 (Reid 1988) with smaller numbers and breeding noted intermittently to 2003 including 400 in 2003 (J. Reid in litt. 2009); 12,000 Eurasian Coot and 7991 Hardhead in 2002 (Costelloe et al. 2004). Australian Painted Snipe, which is listed as nationally vulnerable, bred at Lake Toontoowaranie in 2002 (Costelloe et al. 2004).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Freckled Duck Stictonetta naevosa resident  1982-2003  1,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Pink-eared Duck Malacorhynchus membranaceus resident  1997-2002  74,115 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Maned Duck Chenonetta jubata resident  1975-2002  20,209 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Grey Teal Anas gracilis resident  1997-2002  37,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Blue-billed Duck Oxyura australis unknown  2002  703 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Royal Spoonbill Platalea regia resident  2002  1,418 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Yellow-billed Spoonbill Platalea flavipes resident  2002  1,153 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus resident  1991-2002  100,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax varius resident  2001-2002  14,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Australian Bustard Ardeotis australis breeding  frequent  A1  Least Concern 
Black-tailed Native-hen Tribonyx ventralis resident  1997-2002  90,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae unknown  1987-2003  16,703 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-kneed Dotterel Erythrogonys cinctus breeding  1997  15,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-capped Plover Charadrius ruficapillus resident  1982-2002  2,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Inland Dotterel Peltohyas australis resident  1998-2008  uncommon  A3  Least Concern 
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata non-breeding  2002  1,638-9,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Bourke's Parrot Neopsephotus bourkii resident  2008  common  A3  Least Concern 
Eyrean Grasswren Amytornis goyderi resident  frequent  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Gibberbird Ashbyia lovensis resident  uncommon  A3  Least Concern 
Banded Whiteface Aphelocephala nigricincta resident  2008  uncommon  A3  Least Concern 
Chirruping Wedgebill Psophodes cristatus resident  2008  common  A3  Least Concern 
Cinnamon Quail-thrush Cinclosoma cinnamomeum resident  2008  common  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2008 high not assessed not assessed
Medium - based upon reliable but incomplete / partially representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - agro-industry grazing, ranching or farmin happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - small dams likely in long term (beyond 4 years) whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration medium

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Coongie Lakes National Park 26,669 protected area overlaps with site 18,543  
Coongie Lakes Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 1,980,000 protected area contains site 59,318  
Innamincka Regional Reserve 1,354,193 protected area overlaps with site 40,774  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Desert Semi-desert (includes gibber plains)  minor
Savanna Eucalypt open woodlands  minor
Wetlands (inland) Ephemeral; Freshwater lakes & pools  major
Rocky areas Inland cliffs  major
Shrubland Acacia shrublands; Chenopod shrubs, samphire shrubs and forblands  minor

Land ownership Coongie Lakes National Park is managed by the Department for Environment and Heritage. Most of the remaining land is under pastoral and mineral exploration leases.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major
rangeland/pastureland major

Protection status The IBA includes 66% of the Coongie Lakes National Park and a portion of the Innamincka Regional Reserve.

Acknowledgements Richard Kingsford, Julian Reid and Roger Jaensch provided data and advice.

References Badman, F.J. (1989) The Birds of Middle and Lower Cooper Creek in South Australia. Nature Conservation Society of South Australia: Adelaide.

Badman, F.J. and May, I.A. (1983) Waders in northern South Australia. South Australian Ornithologist 29: 29-39.

Baxter, C.I., Reid, J.R.W. and Jaensch, R.P. (2001) First South Australian records of the Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus and occurrence of vagrants in south-western Queensland. South Australian Ornithologist 33: 164-169.

Bennett, S. (1983) A review of the distribution, status and biology of the Plains Wanderer Pedionomus torquatus, Gould. Emu 83: 1-11.

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

Costelloe J.F., Hudson P.J., Pritchard J.C., Puckridge J.T. and Reid, J.R.W. (2004). ARIDFLO Scientific Report: Environmental Flow Requirements of Arid Zone Rivers with Particular Reference to the Lake Eyre Drainage Basin. School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide. Final Report to South Australian Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation and Commonwealth Department of Environment and Heritage.

Cox, J.B. and Pedler, L.P. (1977) Birds recorded during three visits to the far north-east of South Australia. South Australian Ornithologist 27: 231-250.

DEWHA (2008) A Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. Coongie Lakes - SA001. Accessed from accessed August 2008.

Kingsford, R.T., Curtin, A.L. and Porter, J.L. (1999) Water flows on Cooper Creek in arid Australia determine boom and bust periods for waterbirds. Biological Conservation 88: 231-248.

May, I.A. (1982) Bird notes - Grey Grasswren. South Australian Ornithological Association Newsletter 102: 11.

May, I.A., Close, D.H. and Badman, F. (1982) Bird notes - Freckled Duck. South Australian Ornithological Association Newsletter 104: 6.

May, I.A. (1986) Appendix V: Birds of Innamincka Station. Pp. 123-137. In: Faithfull, E. (ed.) Rangeland Assessment Manual, Innamincka Station. Department of Lands, South Australia.

Parker, S.A. (1980) Birds and conservation parks in the north-east of South Australia. South Australian Parks and Conservation 3: 11-18.

Reid, J.R.W. (1984) [Bird Sections] In: Mollenmans F.H., Reid, J.R.W., Thompson, M.B., Alexander, L. and Pedler, L.P. Biological survey of the Cooper Creek Environmental Association (8.4.4), north eastern South Australia. Consultancy report to National Parks and Wildlife Service. Department of Environment and Planning: Adelaide.

Reid, J.R.W. (1988) Birds. In: Reid, J. and Gillen, J. (eds) (1988) The Coongie Lakes Study. Consultancy report for the Department of Environment and Planning: Adelaide.

Reid, J.R.W. (1992) Terrestrial monitoring of Coongie after flood. An assessment of the effects of flooding on the terrestrial biota in the Coongie Lakes District. Unpublished Final Report to the Reserves Advisory Committee of the National Parks and Wildlife.

Reid, J.R.W. (2000a) Birds of Cooper Creek and the Far North East in South Australia. Pp. 209-227. In: Collier, R., Hatch, J., Matheson, B. and Russell, T. (eds) Birds, birders and birding in South Australia. South Australian Ornithological Association: Adelaide.

Reid, J.R.W. (2000b) Waterbird, Riparian and Floodplain Ecology of the Coongie Lakes System, Cooper Creek, Central Australia. Volume 3 of Reid, J.R.W. & Puckridge, J.T. (eds) The Seasonal Ecology of the Coongie Lakes System and Cooper Creek Floodplain, Central Australia Unpublished report to the South Australian Department for Environment and Heritage and the Australian Heritage Commission.

Reid, J. and Jaensch, R. (1999) An Aerial Survey of Waterbirds in the Coongie Lakes System, December 1998. Report to the South Australian Department of Environment, Heritage and Aboriginal Affairs. Wetlands International - Oceania, Canberra.

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

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