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Location Australia, New South Wales (and ACT),Victoria
Central coordinates 145o 5.33' East  35o 49.95' South
IBA criteria A1, A2
Area 263,485 ha
Altitude 78 - 104m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary Australia's largest remaining River Red Gum forest supports a large population of the vulnerable Superb Parrot and small numbers of the near threatened Diamond Firetail and (non-breeding) Flame Robin. When flooded, it also supports the endangered Australasian Bittern and regionally important numbers of breeding waterbirds.

Site description The IBA is defined by the River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camadulensis) forests of Barmah-Millewa and all land within 10km which may be used by Superb Parrots for foraging whilst nesting in the forest. Barmah-Millewa Forest on the upper Murray River is the largest River Red Gum forest in Australia. It includes the Barmah forest in Victoria and the Millewa and Moira forests in NSW, all of which are listed Ramsar sites. The forests are fed by anabranch systems originating from the Murray River, including the Edward River and Gulpa Creek, but all inflowing rivers are subject to water regulation. Under unmodified flow conditions, floods of 3-6 months duration occurred about 6-8 times each decade. Floods determine vegetation patterns, with rushes and sedges (Juncus spp., Eleocharis acutus) growing in the most frequently flooded areas, moira grass (Pseudoraphis spinescens) plains and red gums growing in the less frequently flooded areas, and black box (Eucalyptus largiflorens) communities existing in the least frequently flooded areas. With less flooding in recent years, common reed (Phragmites australis), cumbungi and moira grass have declined in abundance, red gums are replacing the moira grass plains, and black box is replacing red gums on the margins. Declining health of large red gums may affect the Superb Parrot, which breeds in large mature red gums. However, some environmental flows have been released in recent years, enabling successful waterbird nesting (e.g. 340 gigalitres in 2000/01). The climate is semi-arid with mean temperatures ranging from about 3-16 Celsius in winter and 14-32 Celsius in summer and mean annual rainfall of 408 mm at nearby Deniliquin.

Key Biodiversity The IBA supports large numbers of breeding waterbirds when it is flooded (e.g. 50,000 birds reported in 2006). These congregations do not regularly meet 1% of the world population of any species but are of regional significance. In 2000/01, there were 5508 pairs of 13 species of waterbirds in Millewa Forest and more than 10,000 pairs of ibis (two species) in Barmah Forest. The floodplain was estimated to support 83,000 birds during 1983-1994 (Kingsford et al. 1997). Brolgas are locally extinct and Glossy Ibis, Little Egrets and Whiskered Terns regularly bred in the forest before the 1970s, but no longer do so (Leslie 1995). Great, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, Great Egrets, Intermediate Egrets and Nankeen Night-Herons still breed in the forest but their numbers are declining (Leslie 1995). The vulnerable Painted Honeyeater and near threatened Bush Stone-curlew are occasionally encountered in the IBA (Atlas of Australian Birds database).

Non-bird biodiversity: The IBA supports the globally threatened Trout Cod (Maccullochella macquariensis), Silver Perch (Bidyanus bidyanus), Murray Hardyhead (Craterocephalus fluviatilis) and Flathead Galaxias (Galaxias rostrata).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus resident  1998-2008  12 individuals  poor  A1  Endangered 
Superb Parrot Polytelis swainsonii resident  85-105 individuals  medium  A1, A2  Least Concern 
Flame Robin Petroica phoenicea non-breeding  1998-2008  uncommon  A1  Near Threatened 
Diamond Firetail Stagonopleura guttata resident  1998-2008  uncommon  A1  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

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

Agricultural expansion and intensification livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - agro-industry grazing, ranching or farmin happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Climate change and severe weather drought happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Natural system modifications fire and fire supression 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)  
Barmah State Park 7,900 protected area contained by site 7,900  
Echuca South Natural Features Reserve - Bushland Reserve 29 protected area overlaps with site 29  
Moira H13 Natural Features Reserve - Bushland Reserve 9 protected area contained by site 21  
Moira H14 Natural Features Reserve - Bushland Reserve 1 protected area contained by site 1  
Moira H15 Natural Features Reserve - Bushland Reserve 2 protected area contained by site 2  
Nathalia Natural Features Reserve - Streamside Reserve 22 protected area overlaps with site 22  
Nurmurkah - Picola rail line Natural Features Reserve - Bushland Reserve 102 protected area overlaps with site 10  
Picola Natural Features Reserve - Bushland Reserve 3 protected area contained by site 3  
River Murray Natural Features Reserve - River Murray Reserve 20,990 protected area overlaps with site 1,026  
Strathmerton H29 Natural Features Reserve - Bushland Reserve 4 protected area contained by site 4  
Strathmerton H30 Natural Features Reserve - Bushland Reserve 7 protected area contained by site 7  
Strathmerton H31 Natural Features Reserve - Bushland Reserve 24 protected area contained by site 25  
Tocumwal Regional Park Regional Reserve 0 protected area overlaps with site 0  
Yielima Natural Features Reserve - Bushland Reserve 4 protected area contained by site 4  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial Arable land; Improved grassland & pasture  major
Forest Callitris forests & woodlands; Eucalypt tall open forests  major
Wetlands (inland) Permanent herbaceous swamps & bogs  minor

Land ownership The forests are mostly NSW State Forest; (Barma State Forest, Deniliquin State Forest, Gulpa Island State Forest, Millewa State Forest, Moira State Forest, Native Dog State Forest, Thornley State Forest, Tuppal State Forest) with about 10% in protected areas in NSW (including Moira Lakes Flora Reserve, Reedbeds Exclosure, Langmans Road Exclosure, Bullatale Flora Reserve, Island Sanctuary Deniliquin, Sand-dune Pine Flora Reserve, Tea Tree Road Exclosure) and Victoria (Barmah State Forest, Echuca Regional Park and Barmah State Park) and several small exclosures, flora reserves, roadsides and other reserves. The farmland is mostly private.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture major
forestry major
rangeland/pastureland major
Notes: Including within State Forests.

Protection status Numerous - see separate section.

Acknowledgements Thanks to Keith Stockwell for drafting the nomination. Sue Logie (northern Vic), Gary Deayton , Phil Maher (southern NSW), David Read (Wagga), Ric Webster, Tom Wheller, Phil Maher (all of Deniliquin), Keith Ward (Goulburn Broken CMA) and Paul O'Connor (DSE Tatura) were consulted during the process.

References Bren, L. J. (1992) Tree invasion of an intermittent wetland in relation to changes in the flooding frequency of the River Murray, Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology 17: 395-408.

Bren, L. J. and Gibbs, N. L. (1986) Relationships between flood frequency, vegetation, and topography in a river red gum forest. Australian Forest Research 16: 357-370.

Bren, L. J., O’Neill, I. C. and Gibbs, N. L. (1988) Use of map analysis to elucidate flooding in an Australian riparian river red gum forest. Water Resources Research 24: 1152-1162.

Chesterfield, E. A. (1986) Changes in the vegetation of the river red gum forest at Barmah, Victoria. Australian Forestry 49: 4-15.

Kingsford, R.T. (2000) Ecological impacts of dams, water diversions and river management on floodplain wetlands in Australia. Austral Ecology 25: 109–127.

Kingsford, R. T., Thomas, R. F. and Wong, P.S. (1997) Significant Wetlands for Waterbirds in the Murray-Darling Basin. New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service; Hurstville.

Leslie, D. J. (1995) Moira Lake- A case study of the deterioration of a River Murray natural resource. Unpublished M.For.Sci. Thesis, Melbourne University.

NSW NPWS (in press) Superb Parrot Polytelis swainsonii Recovery Plan. New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service: Hurstville.

NSW State Forests (2002) Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands for NSW Central Murray State Forests. accessed on 21 May 2008.

VEAC (2006) Victorian Environmental Assessment Council River Red Gum Forest Investigation: Discussion Paper.

Webster, R. (1988) The Superb Parrot. A Survey of the Breeding Distribution and Habitat Requirements. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service Report Series No. 12. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service: Canberra.

Webster, R. (2004) Census of the Superb Parrot Polytelis swainsonii Breeding Population along the Edward River (Millewa and Gulpa Island State Forests). Unpublished Report for State Forests of New South Wales.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Barmah-Millewa. Downloaded from on 28/11/2014

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