|Location||Australia, Western Australia|
|Central coordinates||119o 26.64' East 22o 26.74' South|
|IBA criteria||A1, A3, A4i|
|Altitude||400 - 420m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2009|
Summary The IBA is the location for one of only two records since 1990 of the Critically Endangered Night Parrot. When inundated, it supports up to 270,000 waterbirds, including more than 1% of the global population of 14 species (six waterfowl, three cormorants, and single species of grebe, heron, ibis, stilt and tern). It also supports three near-threatened and five arid-biome-restricted species.
Site description The IBA is an extensive (100 km long by 10 km wide) ephemeral saltmarsh between the Chichester and Hamersley Ranges in the Pilbara. The boundary of the IBA is intended to capture the contiguous floodplain of the central Fortescue River basin subject to episodic or seasonal flooding. The eastern basin has a clearly-defined area of maximum flooding, which is all taken in the IBA. West of the Goodiadarrie Hills, the basin narrows and the IBA is extended to the road north from Wittenoom to include a series of swampy areas, which are patchy but mapped as a contiguous area, and are important for nesting waterbirds. Surface inflow is from the upper reaches of the Fortescue River, originating about 130 km south-west of Roy Hill, and other creeks emerging from the ranges. Extensive inundation is episodic, once every ten or more years. Mean annual rainfall at nearby Wittenoom is 403 mm and it is 263 mm at Roy Hill. The site is bisected by the Newman-Port Hedland railway line and road. The IBA should be extended to include the adjacent spinifex-dominated foothills where Night Parrots have been recorded, but their habitat requirements are not known well enough to determine an IBA boundary.
Key Biodiversity When inundated, the IBA supports large numbers of waterbirds, with total counts of 268,758 in August 1999, 94,920 in May 2000, 252,943 in August 2000 and 275,638 in September 2003. Substantial but sub-threshold numbers of Freckled Duck (up to 137), Australian Pelican (up to 4552) and Eurasian Coot (up to 81,583) have been recorded (Halse et al. unpublished data). At least seven Star Finch were present at Minga Well in 2005 (R. Davis in litt. 2008).
Non-bird biodiversity: The nationally threatened Great Bilby (Macrotis lagotis), Pilbara Leaf-nosed Bat (Rhinonicteris aurantius) and Olive Python (Pilbara subspecies) (Liasis olivaceus barroni) occur in the Fortescue River region (Kendrick 2001).
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Plumed Whistling-duck Dendrocygna eytoni||resident||1999-2003||17,500 individuals||unknown||A4i||Least Concern|
|Black Swan Cygnus atratus||resident||1999-2003||17,535 individuals||unknown||A4i||Least Concern|
|Pink-eared Duck Malacorhynchus membranaceus||unknown||1999-2003||11,157 individuals||unknown||A4i||Least Concern|
|Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa||unknown||1999-2003||63,560 individuals||unknown||A4i||Least Concern|
|Grey Teal Anas gracilis||unknown||1999-2003||28,312 individuals||unknown||A4i||Least Concern|
|Hardhead Aythya australis||resident||1999-2003||76,746 individuals||unknown||A4i||Least Concern|
|Hoary-headed Grebe Poliocephalus poliocephalus||unknown||1999-2003||12,673 individuals||unknown||A4i||Least Concern|
|Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis||unknown||1999-2003||16,947 individuals||unknown||A4i||Least Concern|
|White-necked Heron Ardea pacifica||resident||1999-2003||2,148 individuals||unknown||A4i||Least Concern|
|Little Pied Cormorant Microcarbo melanoleucos||unknown||1999-2003||5,991 individuals||unknown||A4i||Least Concern|
|Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris||unknown||1999-2003||27,630 individuals||unknown||A4i||Least Concern|
|Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae||unknown||1999-2003||1,474 individuals||unknown||A4i||Least Concern|
|Grey Falcon Falco hypoleucos||resident||1998-2008||uncommon||-||A1, A3||Vulnerable|
|Australian Bustard Ardeotis australis||resident||1998-2008||common||-||A1||Least Concern|
|Bush Thick-knee Burhinus grallarius||resident||1998-2008||uncommon||-||A1||Least Concern|
|Himantopus leucocephalus||unknown||1999-2003||24,837 individuals||unknown||A4i||Not Recognised|
|Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida||unknown||1999-2003||19,601 individuals||unknown||A4i||Least Concern|
|Night Parrot Pezoporus occidentalis||unknown||2005||rare||-||A1, A3||Endangered|
|Bourke's Parrot Neopsephotus bourkii||resident||2008||common||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Grey Honeyeater Conopophila whitei||resident||2008||rare||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Slaty-backed Thornbill Acanthiza robustirostris||resident||2008||frequent||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Spinifexbird Eremiornis carteri||resident||2008||common||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Painted Finch Emblema pictum||resident||2008||frequent||-||A3||Least Concern|
|2008||high||not assessed||not assessed|
|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|
|Energy production and mining||mining and quarrying||happening now||majority/most of area/population (50-90%)||no or imperceptible deterioration||low|
|Invasive and other problematic species and genes||invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species||happening now||majority/most of area/population (50-90%)||no or imperceptible deterioration||low|
|Natural system modifications||dams & water management/use - large dams||likely in long term (beyond 4 years)||majority/most of area/population (50-90%)||moderate to rapid deterioration||medium|
|Natural system modifications||fire & fire suppression - suppression in fire frequency/intensity||happening now||majority/most of area/population (50-90%)||slow but significant deterioration||high|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Shrubland||Chenopod shrubs, samphire shrubs and forblands||major|
Land ownership The IBA is located entirely on pastoral leasehold land (Mount Florance, Mulga Downs, Hillside, Marillana and Roy Hill). Some land is being transferred to DEC.
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
Protection status None.
Access/Land-Owner requests Access is by permission of land-holders.
Acknowledgements Mike Coote, Rob Davis and Stuart Halse helped define the boundaries and commented on the nomination.
References Birds Australia Western Australia (2003) Observations. Western Australian Bird Notes 107: 4-5.
Davis, R.A. and Metcalf, B.M. (2008) The Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) in northern Western Australia: a recent sighting from the Pilbara region. Emu 108: 233-236.
DEWHA (2008) Fortescue Marshes - WA066. Downloaded from http://www.environment.gov.au/water/publications/environmental/wetlands/database/ in November 2008.
Fortescue Metals Group (2005) Pilbara Iron Ore Project: Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) Management Plan. Fortescue Metals Group, Perth.
Kendrick, P. (2001) Pilbara (PIL2 - Fortescue Plains subregion). Pp. 559-567. In: Department of Conservation and Land Management (2002) A Biodiversity Audit of Western Australia's 53 Biogeographic Subregions in 2002. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Perth.
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Fortescue Marshes. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/03/2015
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