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Location Australia, Queensland
Central coordinates 142o 21.58' East  25o 37.42' South
IBA criteria A4i
Area 174,126 ha
Altitude 110 - 135m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia



Summary This floodplain was estimated to support 200,000 waterbirds in the 2004 flood, including more than 1% of the world population of Straw-necked Ibis (breeding), Glossy Ibis and the Australian population of Black-winged Stilt (=White-headed Stilt). The IBA is poorly-known and is likely to support significant numbers of other waterbirds and terrestrial birds.

Site description The IBA contains the floodplains and swamps associated with the Cooper Creek overflow floodplains between Windorah and Tanbar stations in the Channel Country of inland central Queensland. The exact IBA boundaries were based on expert opinion of R. Jaensch of Wetlands International to include the most important areas for birds, including and major floods of Cooper Creek, and Whitula Creek is an important contributor in some years. Major floods occur about once every five years. The IBA largely lacks major deep channels and, with complex micro-scale drainage networks, it tends to retain water for several to many months after floods and thus provide excellent waterbird habitat. Vegetation includes short forbs, grasses and sedges to tall tussock grass, vast legume thickets, and bluebush and lignum and belalie swamps. Waterholes are few and relatively small but are fringed by lignum, belalie and coolibahs. There are isolated pockets of low sand dunes and mounds. Average rainfall is 292 mm at Windorah Station. The IBA could be extended past Lake Yamma Yamma IBA and along the whole floodplain, downstream to Nappa Merrie near the South Australian border, where waterbirds have been recorded in lower densities, if further surveys better quantify breeding and non-breeding populations.

Key Biodiversity Aerial surveys in the flood event commencing mid-January 2004 counted 83,000 birds, suggesting a total, including overlooked individuals, of 200,000 waterbirds plus breeding birds in colonies (Jaensch 2004). 8.4% of the 524 identified individuals were Plumed Whistling-Ducks, suggesting a total of 6000-17,000 Plumed Whistling-Ducks; similar calculations suggest 10,000-24,000 Whiskered Tern and 5000-11,000 Grey Teal (Jaensch 2004). This flood supported 16 breeding species, including 3350 nests of (Eastern) Great Egret, and also Pink-eared Duck, Glossy Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Whiskered Tern, Black-tailed Native-hen and Brolga., and at least 2000 pairs of (Eastern) Great Egret were nesting at Candue Swamp in 2000; these colonies have been in use for decades (Costelloe et al. 2004; R. Jaensch Wetlands International unpubl. data). The IBA is calculated to regularly support over 100,000 waterbirds more than once per decade based on the area of swamp country and typical waterbird densities (R. Jaensch in litt. 2008). The Atlas of Australian Birds database contains single records of the near threatened Grey Falcon and Australian Bustard and the biome-restricted Bourke's Parrot out of 23 surveys for the period 1998 to 2008 (Atlas of Australian Birds database); it is expected that these and other terrestrial species may prove to occur in significant numbers.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis resident  2000-2004  14,500-20,000 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus non-breeding  2004  25,000-60,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Himantopus leucocephalus unknown  2004  5,000-13,000 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 

IBA Monitoring

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

Agricultural expansion and intensification 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 (agricultural use) likely in long term (beyond 4 years) majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland Chenopod shrubs, samphire shrubs and forblands  major
Wetlands (inland) Ephemeral  major
Forest Eucalypt woodlands  minor

Land ownership Three leasehold cattle stations; Mayfield - Ourdel, South Galway and Tanbar Stations.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
rangeland/pastureland 100%

Protection status None.

Access/Land-Owner requests Land-owner permission must be sought if leaving public roads.

Acknowledgements Roger Jaensch of Wetlands International provided unpublished data, review comments and interpretation on the habitat and waterbird information.

References 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.

DEWHA (2008) Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. Cooper Creek Overflow Swamps - Windorah - QLD025. Downloaded from http://www.environment.gov.au/water/publications/environmental/wetlands/database/ in November 2008.

Jaensch, R.P. (2004) Waterbird breeding colonies, populations and migration in the Channel Country, south-western Queensland, in the 2004 flood season. Unpublished report to the Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Cooper Floodplain Below Windorah. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/12/2014

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife