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Location Australia, Western Australia
Central coordinates 113o 40.65' East  23o 57.04' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A4i
Area 38,200 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary The IBA supports the vulnerable Fairy Tern, more than 1% of the global populations of Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Banded Stilt, Red-necked Avocet and Red-capped Plover, and a population of the restricted-range Dusky Gerygone.

Site description Lake MacLeod is large evaporative basin about 120 km by 10-40 km, located about 30 km north of Carnarvon in Western Australia. The permanent ponds in the north of the lake provide about 60 square km of feeding and roosting habitat for shorebirds. The IBA matches the proposed Ramsar site boundary and includes all of the northern ponds which regularly support significant numbers of birds. Further surveys in times of flood may indicate that the rest of the lake could also qualify for IBA status. The northern ponds comprise intermittently inundated, brackish-hypersaline flats surrounding a series of saline springs and associated permanent saline channels and lagoons. The greater part of Lake MacLeod periodically receives freshwater from the Lyndon River in the north, Minilya River, Cardabia Creek and Boolathana Creek (a distributary of the Gascoyne River), but is usually dry from September to June. Major flooding from the Gascoyne River occurs infrequently, often following cyclones, with significant flow to the lake occurring in 1960, 1961, 1980, 1995 and 2000. The 2000 flood was the largest recorded over this period, with water contributed by all rivers and local rainfall. The lake also receives seawater inflows from subterranean sinkholes. Areas are used for salt and gypsum mining, and the surrounding land is leasehold grazing properties.

Key Biodiversity More than 114,000 waterbirds were recorded in 1987 and 80,000 in 2006, but usually closer to 50,000 have been recorded. Seventy species of waterbird have been recorded at Lake MacLeod. Notable counts include 2566 Red Knot in 1987, 1600 Australian Pelican in 2000, 2488 Little Black Cormorant in 2003, 66 Black-tailed Godwit in 2004 and 2008 Black-winged Stilt in 2005 (Jaensch and Vervest 1990, Davis et al. 2001, Davis 2003, Hassell 2006). Australian Yellow White-eye was the most common species in mangroves in 1977-1982 (Smith and Johnstone 1985); more recent records suggest that it continues to persist in good numbers (Atlas of Australian Birds database). Other species which have been recorded in the IBA include the near threatened Australian Bustard and biome-restricted Chiming Wedgebill (Atlas of Australian Birds database).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Banded Stilt Cladorhynchus leucocephalus breeding  1999-2006  6,000-100,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae non-breeding  1999-2006  2,401 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-capped Plover Charadrius ruficapillus breeding  1999-2006  24-3,125 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis non-breeding  1999-2006  2,350-25,000 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea non-breeding  1999-2006  18,392-55,000 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
Fairy Tern Sternula nereis resident  1999-2003  5-422 individuals  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Dusky Gerygone Gerygone tenebrosa resident  1999-2006  frequent  A2  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

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

Energy production and mining mining and quarrying happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) no or imperceptible deterioration low


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Coastline Mangrove wetlands  minor
Wetlands (inland) Ephemeral; Saline lakes  major

Land ownership Unallocated Crown Land and untenured water body under mining lease to Rio Tinto Minerals (Dampier Salt Limited).

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
energy production and mining minor
Notes: Gypsum and salt mining occur at Lake MacLeod but not in the area of the lake that is most important for birds. Petroleum exploration licenses cover much of the lake.
rangeland/pastureland minor
Notes: Lake MacLeod is surrounded by pastoral leases grazed by sheep.

Protection status None.

Acknowledgements Thanks to Chris Hassell as compiler.

References Davis,C. (2003) Lake MacLeod Surveys 2002-2003. Western Australian Bird Notes 107: 14-20.

Davis, C., Kirkby, T. and Singor, M. (2001) Water study group surveys at Lake MacLeod. Western Australian Bird Notes 98.

DEC (2006) Draft Management Plan for the Proposed Listing of a Wetland of International Importance at Lake MacLeod (Rev.2 July 2006) and Draft Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands. Department of Environment and Conservation. Dampier Salt Limited and WWF-Australia.

Hassell, C. (2006) Bird Survey Reports for Rio Tinto Minerals: Lake MacLeod – October 3-5, 2006; Port Hedland – November 7, 2006; Dampier - November 8&9, 2006. Unpublished report.

Jaensch, R.P. and Vervest, R.M. (1990) Waterbirds at Remote Wetlands in Western Australia 1986-88. Part 2: Lake MacLeod, Shark Bay, Camballin Floodplain and Parry Floodplain. RAOU Report 69. Melbourne: RAOU.

Smith, L.A. and Johnstone, R.E. (1985) The birds of Lake MacLeod, upper west coast, Western Australia. Western Australian Naturalist 16: 83-87.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Lake MacLeod. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016

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