Botany Bay Shorebirds

Shorebirds of Botany Bay

Hazel Watson

PhD student supervised by Professor Richard Kingsford.



My research will focus on the shorebirds of Botany Bay, right in the middle of Sydney, New South Wales.

Shorebirds display a fascinating variety of life histories, behaviours, feeding specialisations and habitat preferences.

They can be found across a wide range of different habitats in coastal and inland wetlands, such as tidal mudflats, sandy beaches, rocky shorelines, saltmarsh, the margins of freshwater lakes and salt pans.

Many shorebird species make a remarkable annual journey to their breeding grounds at high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, moving south again once the brief summer period is over. For this reason, the best time to see shorebirds in Botany Bay is from September to March, when they are present in greatest numbers.

Seventeen species of shorebird are regularly seen in Botany Bay.

While some of these species are resident all year round, such as the Red-capped Plover Charadrius ruficapillus, Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris or Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, many are migratory, such as the Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, which travel thousands of kilometres via the East Asian-Australasian Flyway to breed in the high Arctic, or the Double-banded Plover Charadrius bicinctus, which make a shorter journey across the Tasman and return to New Zealand to breed.

Numbers of shorebirds within Botany Bay have declined significantly over the past 50 years. Suitable feeding and roosting habitat for shorebirds has been much reduced through the reclamation and development of wetland sites throughout the Sydney region, and remaining sites face increasing pressure of disturbance from recreational users.

During this study I will examine population trends and habitat use at sites across the region, and the impact of disturbance on shorebird populations.

Port Botany Expansion and Shorebird Monitoring

My project is linked to my role as Port Botany Expansion Project Officer for Birds Australia.

Penrhyn Estuary is adjacent to Port Botany, where the small area of intertidal mudflats represents the last remaining site for shorebirds on the northern shores of Botany Bay.

The estuary has only been in existence since the 1970s when Port Botany was built. The value of the estuary for shorebirds has grown with the development of the nearby airport and the associated loss of suitable habitat from the area reclaimed for the runway.

Construction for the expansion of the shipping terminal at Port Botany began at the end of May 2008. The development also aims to safeguard Penrhyn Estuary as habitat for shorebirds, and includes plans to create a temporary roost island, expand the area of intertidal mudflats, remove mangroves and invasive weeds, and re-vegetate with saltmarsh species.

During the expansion project, observations of the shorebirds at Penrhyn Estuary are being carried out on a twice-daily basis, to monitor the shorebird populations and record disturbances due to the construction work or any other cause.

Research Program: 
Research Themes: 
Rivers and Wetlands
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