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Location Australia, Western Australia
Central coordinates 119o 26.64' East  22o 26.74' South
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i
Area 96,068 ha
Altitude 400 - 420m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

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 unpublished data).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).

Populations of IBA trigger species

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 

IBA Monitoring

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


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

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

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 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 (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Fortescue Marshes. Downloaded from on 28/11/2014

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