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Location Australia, Western Australia
Central coordinates 115o 23.94' East  20o 47.27' South
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i
Area 23,483 ha
Altitude 0 - 65m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary The 235 km² Barrow Island supports more than 1% of the global populations of Pied Oystercatcher, Grey-tailed Tattler, Red-necked Stint and Fairy Tern. It is also supports a significant and isolated population of the biome-restricted Spinifexbird, and is the only location for the vulnerable Barrow Island subspecies of White-winged Fairy-wren.

Site description The IBA consists of the whole 235 km² Barrow Island, as the whole island is listed as a Nature Reserve and threats from invasive species must be managed on a whole-island basis. Barrow is 60 km off the Pilbara coast of Western Australia. It is a limestone island with a hot, arid climate and a mean rainfall of about 320 mm pa. Most of the island is low and gently undulating, but on the west coast there are gullies, cliffs and sandy beaches. Hummock grassland dominates the landscape and provides habitat for Spinifexbirds and White-winged Fairy-wrens. Although shorebirds are concentrated in the south-east and south of Barrow Island, significant numbers are present around the entire island except for the 'Upper West' section (Bamford and Bamford 2005).

Key Biodiversity The Barrow Island subspecies of the White-winged Fairy-wren Malurus leucopterus edouardi is endemic, listed as vulnerable (Garnett and Crowley 2000), protected by the Federal EPBC Act, genetically distinct from the mainland Malurus leucopterus leuconotus (Driskell et al. 2002) and has a population of around 7500 birds (Bamford and Bamford 2005). 1708 Common Terns counted in November 2003 and 7300 Roseate Terns counted in September 2004 are more than the 1% of the biogeographic population but it is not known whether the island regularly supports these numbers. A count of 83 Sooty Oystercatcher represents 1.1% of the known population of the distinctive northern race (ophthalmicus) of the species. Counts of Sanderling, Greater Sand Plover and Lesser Sand Plover during the southward migration period (September to November) met the staging criterion (0.25% of a species’ biogeographic population) of the Ramsar Convention. Counts of 4000 Bridled Terns around Double Island in November 2003 may also be locally significant for this species (Bamford and Bamford 2005).

Non-bird biodiversity: Barrow Island has several mammal taxa listed as threatened and numerous endemic subterranean animals (troglobites and stygobites), some of which are listed as threatened. One endemic troglobitic snake species (the only troglobitic snake in the world) and one endemic skink subpecies also occur on the island. The beaches are regionally-significant rookeries for green turtles (west coast) and flatback turtles (east coast).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris non-breeding  2003-2004  112-362 individuals  good  A4i  Least Concern 
Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes non-breeding  2003-2004  429-2,634 individuals  good  A4i  Near Threatened 
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis non-breeding  2003-2004  822-7,611 individuals  good  A4i  Near Threatened 
Fairy Tern Sternula nereis non-breeding  2003-2004  41-1,060 individuals  good  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Spinifexbird Eremiornis carteri resident  1978-2004  17,800-24,600 individuals  good  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

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

Energy production and mining mining and quarrying happening now some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now whole area/population (>90%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Residential and commercial development commercial and industrial development likely in long term (beyond 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration medium

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Barrow Island Nature Reserve 23,483 is identical to site 23,483  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Coastline Sea cliffs, rocky shores & rocky islets  5%
Grassland Hummock grasslands  95%

Land ownership Barrow Island Nature Reserve is Class A Reserve 11648 for "Conservation of Flora and Fauna" vested in the Conservation Commission of Western Australia and managed by the Department of Environment and Conservation. A petroleum lease, owned by Chevron Australia, covers the whole island.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 95%
urban/industrial/transport 5%

Protection status Barrow Island Nature Reserve.

Access/Land-Owner requests Access is limited because of Petroleum Production Lease.

Acknowledgements Thanks to Andrew Burbidge as compiler of the nomination and for comments received from Mike Bamford and Cheryl Gole.

References Bamford, M.J. and Bamford, A.R. (2005) Technical Report: Avifauna. Technical Appendix C3 in the draft EIS/ERMP for the proposed Gorgon development. 03-man_environment/EIS/Technical Appendix C3.

Driskell, A.C., Pruett-Jones, S., Tarvin, K.A. and Hagevik, S. (2002) Evolutionary relationships among blue-and black-plumaged popuklations of the white-winged fairy-wrens (Malurus leucopterus). Australian Journal of Zoology 50(6): 581-595.

Garnett, S.T. and Crowley, G. M. (2000) The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. Canberra: Environment Australia.

Sedgewick, E.H. (1978) A population study of the Barrow Island avifauna. Western Australian Naturalist 14: 85-108.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Barrow Island. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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