email a friend
printable version
Location Australia, Western Australia
Central coordinates 115o 42.44' East  32o 39.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i
Area 14,343 ha
Altitude 0 - 5m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary The site supports significant populations of the vulnerable Fairy Tern, probably non-breeding; is a drought refuge for the near-threatened Blue-billed Duck; and sometimes supports more than 1% of the global population of Red-necked Stint, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Banded Stilt, Red-necked Avocet and Red-capped Plover.

Site description The Peel-Harvey Estuary is in the city of Mandurah and the shires of Murray, Waroona and Harvey in Western Australia. The site comprises the Peel Inlet (south of the old Mandurah estuary bridge) and the Harvey Estuary, including all land up to the high water mark plus all islands. The Peel Inlet and Harvey Estuary form a shallow estuarine system connected to the sea via a narrow, natural channel at the Peel Inlet, and the man-made Dawesville Channel at the Harvey Estuary that was opened in 1994. The Murray and Serpentine Rivers drain into the north-eastern Inlet, and the Harvey River enters the southern estuary, in addition to several major drains from agricultural land. A large proportion of Peel Inlet and the southern end of Harvey Estuary is less than 0.5 m deep, with a maximum depth of only about 2 metres, supporting seagrass. The Dawesville Channel was created to increase the tidal range in both estuaries, and to increase tidal flushing of the waters, which were increasingly eutrophic from fertiliser run-off, drainage and clearance of natural vegetation. Parts of the IBA are fringed by samphire flats and, behind the samphire, rushes and sedges, and then Melaleuca trees. Large parts of the shoreline have been cleared, mostly for agriculture, thus altering or eliminating the tree zones. It has declined in value to waterbirds after supporting a peak of 100,000 birds in 1977 and 41,000 in 1998. Mean annual rainfall at Mandurah is 885 mm, mostly in May-August.

Key Biodiversity A high count of 150,000 waterbirds in 1976/7 included 17,000 Eurasian Coot and 8000 Black Swan (Lane et al. 2002c). Surveys in portions of the Peel Inlet in 1981-1985 averaged about 20,000 waterbirds (Jaensch et al. 1988). The IBA still supports large numbers of waterbirds with counts of 14,500 in 1989, 23,000 in 1991 and 22,000 in 1992 (Halse et al. 1990, 1994) and a total 100,000-150,000 waterbirds recorded in 1997. Several species have historically been recorded in numbers above the 1% threshold. Hoary-headed Grebe: 10,340 in 1976-77 otherwise max 967 in 1983 (DEWHA 2008; Lane et al. 2002c; Jaensch et al. 1988); Blue-billed Duck: 1200 in 1981-5 (Jaensch et al. 1988); Australian Shelduck: 5650 in 1984 (Lane et al. 2002c; Jaensch et al. 1988; DEWHA 2008) and 4527 in 1996/7 (Lane et al. 2002a); Grey Teal: 25,070 in 1976/7, otherwise max 8230 in 1982 and 12,612 in 1996/7(DEWHA 2008; Lane et al. 2002a,c; Jaensch et al. 1988); Australian Shoveler: 1500 in 1981-5, otherwise max 500 in 1984 (DEWHA 2008; Jaensch et al. 1988) and in 1996/7 (Lane et al. 2002a); and Black-winged Stilt: 2293 in 1996/7 (Lane et al. 2002a). Terrestrial species recorded from the IBA include the biome-restricted Regent Parrot, Red-capped Parrot, Rock Parrot, Western Thornbill and Western Spinebill (Atlas of Australian Birds database).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Blue-billed Duck Oxyura australis non-breeding  1983-2007  10-1,200 individuals  good  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Banded Stilt Cladorhynchus leucocephalus non-breeding  1977-2007  63,000 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae non-breeding  1996-2007  2,440 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-capped Plover Charadrius ruficapillus resident  1998-2007  1,754 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis non-breeding  1998-2007  16,440 individuals  good  A4i  Near Threatened 
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata non-breeding  1983-2007  2,120 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Fairy Tern Sternula nereis unknown  1996-2007  100-262 individuals  good  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 

IBA Monitoring

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

Residential and commercial development housing and urban areas likely in long term (beyond 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Transportation and service corridors shipping lanes happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Austin Bay Nature Reserve 1,659 protected area overlaps with site 899  
Boodalan Nature Reserve 1 protected area contained by site 1  
Creery Island Nature Reserve 74 protected area contained by site 74  
Kooljerrenup Nature Reserve 1,239 protected area overlaps with site 492  
Len Howard Conservation Park 67 protected area overlaps with site 53  
Mealup Point Nature Reserve 30 protected area contained by site 30  
Un-named (No. 44977) Nature Reserve 27 protected area overlaps with site 6  
Un-named (No. 46661) Other Park 94 protected area overlaps with site 75  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial Other urban & industrial areas  minor
Coastline Estuarine waters; Intertidal mud, sand & salt flats; Lagoons; Sand cays, islets & bars  major
Wetlands (inland) Salt marshes  minor

Land ownership Nature Reserves are managed by the Western Australia DEC. Surrounding areas are mostly freehold (privately owned) land or Unallocated Crown Land.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 15%
tourism/recreation 70%
urban/industrial/transport 15%

Protection status Numerous - see separate section for details.

Acknowledgements Thanks to Michael Craig and William Rutherford as compilers and to Bill Russell for his comments.

References DEWHA (2008) Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands (RIS) for Peel-Yalgorup System, Western Australia. Downloaded from on November 2007.

Halse, S.A., Jaensch, R.P., Munro, D.R. and Pearson, G.B. (1990) Annual waterfowl counts in south-western Australia - 1988-89. Technical report 25. Perth: Department of Conservation and Land Management.

Halse, S.A., Vervest, R.M., Pearson, G.B., Yung, F.H. and Fuller, P.J. (1994) Annual waterfowl counts in south-west Western Australia - 1990-91. CALMScience 1: 107-129.

Jaensch, R.P., Vervest, R.M. and Hewish, M.J. (1988) Waterbirds in nature reserves of south-western Australia, 1981-1985: reserve accounts. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union Report 30: 1-290.

Lane, J.A.K., Pearson, G.B. and Clarke, A.C. (1997) Waterbird use of Peel-Harvey following opening of the Dawesville Channel in April 1994: Progress report. Unpublished report for the Department of Conservation & Land Management.

Lane, J.A.K., Clarke, A.C. and Pearson, G.B. (2002a) Waterbirds of Peel-Harvey Estuary in 1996-97. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Perth.

Lane, J.A.K., Clarke, A.G. and Pearson, G.B. (2002b) Waterbirds of Peel-Harvey estuary in 1998-99. Unpublished report to WA Department of Conservation & Land Management.

Lane, J.A.K. and Pearson, G.B. (2002c) Waterbirds of Peel-Harvey Estuary in the Mid 1970s. Report prepared by the Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management, Perth.

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Peel-Harvey Estuary. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

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