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Location Australia, New South Wales (and ACT)
Central coordinates 147o 37.74' East  30o 55.92' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i
Area 237,802 ha
Altitude 130 - 190m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary The IBA has supported more than 1% of the global populations of the endangered Australasian Bittern and the congregatory White-necked Heron, Intermediate Egret, Nankeen Night-Heron, Australian White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. The IBA also supports a population of the near threatened Diamond Firetail.

Site description The IBA is the maximum extent of the recent (1990) flood of the Macquarie Marshes, which lie on the Macquarie River in northern New South Wales. This over-estimates the area flooded in most recent years but could be achieved with adequate water allocations. The IBA includes the main channel of the Macquarie River and the anastomosing channels of Bora Channel, Buckiinguy Creek, Bulgeraga Creek, Gum Cowal, Marra Creek, Marthaguy Creek, Monkey Creek, Monkeygar Creek, Terrigal Creek. Daily temperatures in the region vary from about 4°C in July to about 36°C in January, and average annual rainfall is 300-400 mm. The area of the marshes varies depending on the degree of inundation, with a recent maximum of about 131,000 ha in 1990, much lower than the historical maximum of 478,000 ha over the same area in the mid-1950s. In recent years, flooding has been much less frequent and less extensive, with just one major flooding event in 2000/1. The marshes are a freshwater system of channels and streams, some of which have been rendered permanent following construction of water regulation devices, and semi-permanent and ephemeral swamps and floodplains. The marshes support a variety of vegetation types, but the more prominent communities include River Red Gum forest and woodland, extensive beds of Common Reed, and meadows of Water Couch.

Key Biodiversity A minimum 206 species of bird have been recorded in the Macquarie Marshes (NSW NPWS 2007). This figure includes more than 60 species of waterbird, at least 43 of which breed in the marshes (Brooker 1992; Brock 1997; Brookhouse 1999). The marshes are predicted to support over 190,000 waterbirds during major floods (Kingsford et al. 1997), including large numbers of breeding birds. For example, in 2000, there were breeding colonies of Glossy Ibis (3900 nests), Straw-necked Ibis (31,225 nests), Intermediate Egret (20,200 nests), Nankeen Night-Heron (15,500 nests), Great Egret (1300 pairs), Australian White Ibis (2940 nests), Little Egret (100 nests) and Royal Spoonbill (76 nests) (Kingsford & Auld 2002). There have not been any prolific waterbird nesting events in the IBA since 2000-2001. The marshes have supported large numbers of waterfowl, e.g. 60,000 waterfowl were counted on the northern quarter of the marshes by Kingsford (1996), 3500 Pacific Black Duck were counted on the marshes in 1997 (Kingsford et al. 1997) and 5652 Caspian Tern in 1983 (Kingsford and Porter (2006)). Other notable species which have been recorded in the IBA include Australian Little Bittern, Australian Painted Snipe, Superb Parrot, Painted Honeyeater, Pied Honeyeater and Diamond Firetail (Atlas of Australian Birds database).

Non-bird biodiversity: At least eight native and six introduced species of mammal in the Macquarie Marshes, together with 56 species of reptile, 15 species of frog and 16 species of freshwater fish (Brock 1997).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Australian Ibis Threskiornis moluccus resident  1978-2005  6,700 nests  unknown  A4i  Least Concern 
Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis resident  1987-2005  55,000 nests  unknown  A4i  Least Concern 
Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus resident  1998-2008  4 individuals  A1  Endangered 
Mesophoyx intermedia resident  1978-2005  20,200 nests  unknown  A4i  Not Recognised 
Rufous Night-heron Nycticorax caledonicus resident  1978-2005  15,500 nests  unknown  A4i  Least Concern 
White-necked Heron Ardea pacifica unknown  1983-2005  2,304 individuals  unknown  A4i  Least Concern 
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata non-breeding  1983-2005  3,000 individuals  unknown  A4i  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2013 high not assessed not assessed

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
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of surface water (unknown use) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve 19,550 protected area contained by site 18,192  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Permanent herbaceous swamps & bogs; Riverine floodplains; Rivers & streams  major

Land ownership Private and state government (New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service).

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 10%
rangeland/pastureland 90%

Protection status The IBA includes the Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve.

Acknowledgements Richard Kingsford commented on the nomination.

References Brock, P. (Ed.) (1997) Macquarie Marshes Land and Water Management Plan. Macquarie Marshes Management Committee: Dubbo.

Brooker, M. G. (1992) Waterbirds of the Macquarie Marshes. Unpublished report to New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service: Hurstville.

Brock, P. (ed.) (1997) Macquarie Marshes Land and Water Management Plan. Macquarie Marshes Management Committee, Dubbo.

Brooker, M.G. (1992) Waterbirds of Macquarie Marshes. Unpublished report to New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hurstville.

Brookhouse, P. (1999) Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve Fire Management Plan 2000-2004. New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hurstville.

Kingsford, R. and Auld, K. (2002) Unpublished data in Morris, A.K. (2002) New South Wales Annual Bird Report for 2000. Australian Birds 33: 1-75.

Kingsford, R. T. and Johnson, W. (1998) Impact of water diversions on colonially-nesting waterbirds in the Macquarie Marshes of arid Australia. Colonial Waterbirds 21: 159-170.

Kingsford, R. and Porter, J. (2006) Eastern Australian aerial survey database. Accessed 2008.

Kingsford, R. T. and Thomas, R. F. (1995) The Macquarie Marshes in arid Australia and their waterbirds: a 50-year history of decline. Environmental Management 19: 867-878.

Morris, A. K. and Burton, (1999) New South Wales Annual Bird Report for 1996. Australian Birds 31: 86-137.

NSW NPWS (1999) Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve Plan of Management. New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service: Hurstville.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Macquarie Marshes. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

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