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Location Australia, Queensland
Central coordinates 150o 33.38' East  22o 29.26' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A4i
Area 48,301 ha
Altitude 0 - 19m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary The IBA supports more than 1% of the global populations of the congregatory Pied Oystercatcher, Eastern Curlew and Grey-tailed Tattler; significant numbers of the near threatened Beach Stone-curlew; a population of the restricted-range Mangrove Honeyeater; and more than 1% of the East Asian-Australasian flyway populations of the congregratory Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel and Terek Sandpiper.

Site description Shoalwater Bay is located 93 km north of Rockhampton and comprises a complex continuous wetland aggregation that is formed in a large shallow marine embayment. It is a good example of shallow marine and estuarine wetland, and various freshwater wetland types on coastal sands. The site is part of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, which is 453,700 ha of mainland, islands and intervening marine areas, owned by the Department of Defence (Australian Government) and managed equally for the purposes of military training and nature conservation. The IBA covers all wetland habitat suitable for migratory shorebirds, including all intertidal mud flats, extending from Broome Head in the north to the southern boundary of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, including Akens Island, Pelican Rock and Corio Bay to the south and including the north-eastern beaches, which have limited intertidal areas for migratory shorebirds but support Beach Stone-curlews. The IBA excludes the marine waters within the Training Area, some inland sections of the Ramsar site and the dry mainland portions of the Training Area. Six wetland habitats occur within the area: shallow open water systems including seagrass beds, rocky marine shores, beaches and bars, lower intertidal mudflats, mangrove communities, supra-tidal flats and freshwater swamps (wet heath, grass/sedge and shrubby/wooded).

Key Biodiversity Shoalwater Bay was estimated to support 23,000 migratory shorebirds in 1995 and 32,000 in 2007 (Jaensch 2008). This includes significant populations of Bar-tailed Godwit (5077 in 1195; 4242 in 2007); Whimbrel (7089 in 1995; 2891 in 2007); Terek Sandpiper (3410 in 1995; 1953 in 2007) and Little Tern (1300 in 1995). Australian Pelicans nest on Akens Island, usually 300-400 pairs but occasionally up to 1000 pairs (P. O'Neill in litt. 2008). Access to the island is restricted by the Department of Defence. A total of 226 bird species have been recorded from the larger Shoalwater Bay Training Area (Ramsar summary on DEH website). Bush Stone-Curlew have been recorded in the region (Atlas of Australian Birds database) but numbers of this species are unknown.

Non-bird biodiversity: Rich aquatic beds of seagrass that consist of eight species, and 18 of the 39 species of mangrove found in Australia, occur in the area. The seagrass provides extensive areas of Dugong habitat. Significant non-breeding populations of Green Turtle use the area, and Loggerhead, Flatback and Hawksbill Turtles also occur. Estuarine Crocodiles have been observed in Shoalwater Creek and Port Clinton.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Beach Thick-knee Esacus magnirostris resident  1995-2007  90 individuals  medium  A1  Near Threatened 
Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris resident  1995-2007  307-376 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes non-breeding  1995-2007  3,014-3,831 individuals  good  A4i  Near Threatened 
Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis non-breeding  1995-2007  1,365-2,844 individuals  good  A4i  Endangered 
Mangrove Honeyeater Lichenostomus fasciogularis resident  1995-2008  abundant  A2  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

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

Human intrusions and disturbance war, civil unrest and military exercises 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)  
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park 34,440,000 protected area overlaps with site 11,560  
Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Site 34,870,000 protected area overlaps with site 22,687  
Mackay / Capricorn Marine Park 3,400,190 protected area overlaps with site 36,520  
Port Clinton (Reef Point - Cape Clinton) Dugong Protection Area (A) 17,540 protected area overlaps with site 8,163  
Shoalwater Bay Conservation Park 1,650 protected area overlaps with site 13  
Shoalwater Bay Dugong Protection Area (A) 81,029 protected area overlaps with site 14,627  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Coastline Estuarine waters; Intertidal mud, sand & salt flats; Mangrove wetlands; Sand cays, islets & bars; Sand dunes & beaches; Sea cliffs, rocky shores & rocky islets  major
Wetlands (inland) Permanent herbaceous swamps & bogs  major

Land ownership Department of Defence.

Land use

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

Protection status The IBA overlaps with five protected areas.

Access/Land-Owner requests Access is strictly prohibited without authorisation from the Department of Defence.

Acknowledgements Allan Briggs of Birds Australia Capricornia, John McCabe of QPWS, Paul O'Neill of QPWS (now Defence), Peter Driscoll and Roger Jaensch of Wetlands International kindly provided data and comments. The nomination was kindly supported by Leanne Sommer of the Department of Defence.

References Capricorn Coast Protection Council (1974) An ecological study of Corio Bay, Central Queensland. Commissioned Report.

Driscoll, P. (1995) Survey of shorebird feeding areas and roosts in the Shoalwater Bay area. Unpublished report.

Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands (RIS) for Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area (Shoalwater Bay Training Area, in part - Corio Bay) - 44, taken from

Jaensch, R. 2008. A condition assessment of wetlands and waterbirds in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area. Part 4: numbers of migratory shorebirds. Unpublished report to Australian Government Department of Defence, by Wetlands International, Brisbane.

O'Neill, P. and Driscoll, P. (1995) Survey of shorebird feeding areas and roosts in the Shoalwater Bay area. Commissioned report for Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage and the Queensland Wader Studies Group.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Shoalwater Bay (Rockhampton). Downloaded from on 21/10/2016

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