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Location Australia, South Australia
Central coordinates 139o 10.84' East  35o 28.47' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i
Area 130,085 ha
Altitude 0 - 10m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary The IBA regularly supports the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot, the endangered Australasian Bittern, the vulnerable Fairy Tern, and more than 1% of the world population of Cape Barren Goose, Australian Shelduck, Great Cormorant and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper amongst about 100,000 waterbirds in 2007.

Site description This IBA comprises Lakes Alexandrina and Albert, which form a natural wetland system at the mouth of the River Murray and are connected with the Coorong IBA. The IBA includes the whole of Lake Alexandrina (76,000 ha) and Lake Albert (16,800 ha), even though the bird conservation values are concentrated along the shores, and the wetlands associated with Lake Alexandrina of Tolderol, Mosquito Points, lower reaches of Currency Creek and Finniss River, the six main islands (Mundoo, Mud, Long, Hindmarsh, Tauwitchere, Salt Lagoon Island) and three areas heavily used by Cape Barren Geese: Wyngate, Campbell Park and Point Sturt. The lagoons receive water from four main sources - by exchange with the sea via the Murray Mouth, by freshwater inflow from the River Murray, via local rainfall, run-off and groundwater inputs, and by rare inflows through Salt Creek. However, the hydrology has been heavily modified by a barrage across the mouth of the Murray to keep them fresh and to maintain water levels, and by significantly reduced freshwater input from the Murray, so that the lakes are much less variable in water levels and support fewer birds than previously. Water is also abstracted for local irrigation and to supply Adelaide. Currency Creek and the Finniss River form sheltered reedy freshwater estuaries on Lake Alexandrina. Tolderol and Mosquito Points and the Narrows also support extensive sheltered reed beds. The Bremer River and Angas River flow seasonally and have ephemeral wetlands near their mouths on Lake Alexandrina. Around the lakes are salt marshes and saline lagoons, many of which are occasionally inundated by floods. Lake Alexandrina is mainly Crown Lands except for the Tolderol, Mud Islands and Currency Creek Game Reserves, and Lake Albert is mainly Crown Lands, but both are surrounded by private land. The lakes are heavily used for recreation, especially boating and fishing. The lakes are part of the The Coorong, and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert Wetland Ramsar site.

Key Biodiversity Three species have exceeded 1% thresholds on one recent occasion: 350 Freckled Duck in 2006, 144 Pied Oystercatcher in 2005 and 1440 Red-necked Avocet in 2004 (Atlas of Australian Birds database) but further surveys are needed to determine if numbers regularly exceed these thresholds. Historical high counts of shorebirds include 1542 Red-necked Avocet at Waltowa Swamp in 1982 and 1410 Red-necked Stint at Tolderol in 1984 (AWSG database). In November 2007, Lake Albert supported about 30,000 waterbirds and Lake Alexandrina supported about 67,000 waterbirds, including an estimated 2626 (1792 on Lake Alexandrina + 834 on Lake Albert) Pacific Black Duck, 5768 Black Swan (5325+443), 1901 Eurasian Coot (1858+43), 718 Caspian Tern (569+148), 10,750 Grey Teal (6618+4133), 2662 Whiskered Tern (1823+839) and another 2970 unidentified terns, 3777 Pied Cormorant (1055+2722), 8611 Australian Pelican (6289+2322), 3092 (760+2332) Straw-necked Ibis and 655 (547+108) Black-winged Stilt (Kingsford & Porter 2008). The near threatened Flame Robin and Diamond Firetail and the biome-restricted Rock Parrot are rarely recorded in the IBA (Atlas of Australian Birds database) as is the federally-listed vulnerable Australian Painted Snipe (Eckert 2000).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Cape Barren Goose Cereopsis novaehollandiae non-breeding  1979-1996  1,811-5,462 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Australian Shelduck Tadorna tadornoides unknown  2007  21,525 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus resident  1998-2008  rare  A1  Endangered 
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo unknown  2000-2007  20,000-23,143 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata non-breeding  1982-2007  3,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Fairy Tern Sternula nereis unknown  1998-2008  uncommon  A1  Vulnerable 
Orange-bellied Parrot Neophema chrysogaster non-breeding  1981-2007  present  A1  Critically Endangered 

IBA Monitoring

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

Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of surface water (unknown use) likely in long term (beyond 4 years) whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration high

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Coorong National Park 48,958 protected area overlaps with site 10  
Currency Creek Game Reserve 128 protected area contained by site 128  
Mud Islands Game Reserve 125 protected area contained by site 126  
Salt Lagoon Islands Conservation Park 76 protected area contained by site 75  
Tolderol Game Reserve 428 protected area contained by site 428  
Wyndgate (Coorong Land) Protected Area 1,094 protected area contained by site 1,088  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Melaleuca forests & woodlands  minor
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater lakes & pools; Permanent herbaceous swamps & bogs; Salt marshes  major

Land ownership Crown Land except for game reserves (Mud Islands: 121 ha; southern part of Tolderol Point peninsula: 449 ha; and a series of small islands at the mouth of Currency Creek: 130 ha), Salt Lagoon Islands Conservation Park (66 ha), several Aboriginal Reserves, Mundoo Pastoral company and other private land.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major
rangeland/pastureland minor
Notes: Fringing farmland.
tourism/recreation major
water management major

Protection status Several - see separate section.

Acknowledgements Simon Brealey helped draft the nomination. Richard Kingsford and John Porter (University of New South Wales) kindly provided aerial waterbird data, which was funded by Murray Darling Basin Commission (through Lex Cogle). Andrew Black summarised information in Eckert (2000).

References DEH (2000) Coorong, and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert Ramsar Management Plan. Adelaide: Department for Environment and Heritage.

DEWHA (2008) A Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia. The Coorong, Lake Alexandrina & Lake Albert - SA063. accessed June 2008.

EconSearch (2004) Social, economic and environmental values and indicators for the lower Murray region. Report prepared for the Murray-Darling Basin Commission and the Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation. Adelaide: EconSearch and Australian Water Environments.

Eckert, J. (2000) Birds. In: Strathalbyn Naturalists Club. Natural History of Strathalbyn and Goolwa Districts. Woodville, South Australia: Douglas Press.

Kingsford, R.T. and Porter, J.L. (2008) Survey of waterbird communities of the Living Murray icon sites - November 2007. Unpublished report to Murray-Darling Basin Commission. University of New South Wales.

Murray-Darling Basin Commission (2005) The Lower Lakes, Coorong and Murray Mouth Asset Environmental Management Plan 2005/2006. MDBC Publication No.29/05. Canberra: Murray-Darling Basin Commission.

Phillips, W. and Muller, K. (2006) Ecological character of the Coorong and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert wetland of international importance. Adelaide: Department of Environment and Heritage.

Robinson, A.C., Gerschwitz, T. and Halstead, C. (2001) Monitoring of Cape Barren Goose populations in South Australia IV. The 1996 breeding season and the summering population. South Australian Ornithologist 33: 117-127.

Rogers, C. (2008a) Bird report 2004. South Australian Ornithologist 35: 86-95.

Rogers, C. (2008b) Bird report 2005. South Australian Ornithologist 35: 132-143.

Stokes, A., Arnold, C., Urban and St John, B. (2002) Management of Cape Barren Geese in agricultural landscapes in South Australia - population estimate and cull limits for 2002. Unpublished report, Department for Environment and Heritage.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Lakes Alexandrina and Albert. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

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