Celebrating our globetrotting migratory birds

Thursday 7 October, 2021

With humans travelling less right now, it’s great to know that the international flight schedules of migratory shorebirds, known as waders, are right on time.

This World Migratory Wader Day, Saturday 9 October, West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA) pays tribute to the globetrotting waders of Corner Inlet and all who care for them.

Each Spring, these internationally recognised wetlands become a popular international destination for birds flying in from the Northern Hemisphere. Known as waders, the shorebirds feed along the mudflats and sandy shores for six months until they take flight to cross the globe again.

The distances these birds travel are enormous, yet many of these birds are tiny. Corner Inlet regularly supports an estimated 29,000 waders (migratory and non-migratory). This represents over 21.54% of the total known Victorian wader population.

Of the migratory types, Tanya Cowell, West Gippsland CMA’s Water Project Officer says the Red Necked Stint is one of her “personal favorites”. Weighing in at less that 30 grams – the stints spend the northern summer nesting in the Siberian tundra before taking off on their over 10,000 kilometre migration south, stopping to refuel on the muddy shores of the Yellow Sea. Some stints choose to stop in northern Australia, while Victoria’s intrepid travellers continue across the continent to Corner Inlet.

At the other end of the size scale, the Eastern Curlew is Australia’s largest wader and also relies on the protected shores of Corner Inlet. Their long, curved bills are perfect for probing mudflats for small crabs and molluscs. Listed as Vulnerable in Victoria, Eastern Curlews are Critically Endangered at a Federal level.

Migratory birds are protected across their ‘flyways’ through a range of agreements including the East Asian-Australasain Flyway Partnership. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is another protection measure. Signed in 1971, in the small Iranian town of Ramsar, the agreement between nations aims to conserve important wetlands across the world.

Each Ramsar listed wetland has a coordinator that works with partners and community to help protect it. West Gippsland CMA is the site coordinator for Corner Inlet and we are playing our part to protect Corner Inlet’s migratory waders. The inlet’s lands and waters have significant cultural value to the Traditional Land Owners, the Gunaikurnai and Bunurong Peoples and it is estimated that it supports 50% of Victoria’s Overwintering migratory waders.

We work with partners and community to help protect the area through programs such as:

  • Weed works, including stopping the Spartina weed from encroaching on mudflats where the waders feed
  • Fox control on Barrier Islands – this also protects resident nesting shorebirds
  • Protection of saltmarsh to provide food and shelter for migratory shorebirds and to protect and maintain the integrity of the wider ecosystem mudflats for all wader species.

World Migratory Bird Day, on Saturday 9 October, is a day to celebrate, reflect and connect with incredible birds who cross the globe to reach our shores and to celebrate those who are playing their part to protect them and their habitat while on our shores.