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Usually the most noticeable fauna of an Australian wetland, birds often present the quintessential images of this habitat, e.g. large flocks of magpie geese grubbing for bulbs in a sedgeland or the chaotic nature of colonies where egrets, ibis and cormorants squabble over nest sites in melaleuca swamp wetlands. Some shorebirds visit Australian wetlands for part of the year to take advantage of food resources on intertidal mudflats before undertaking a long migration to the northern hemisphere to breed. However, there are many rarely seen birds that are just as dependent on wetlands for food, shelter and breeding resources. Birds such as crakes, rails, kingfishers and reed-warblers are often hidden within dense reed beds or mangrove lined channels.

Wetland bird indicator species and profiles

To find out more about species in your area, see WetlandSummary.

For specific information on wetland species sightings, visit WetlandMaps or Wildlife Online.

Definitions and species included

Waterbirds are bird species that are ecologically dependent on wetlands and in Australia include the following:

Taxonomic Order

Description of members occurring in Queensland




wetland-related pelicans, cormorants, darters and allies


herons, bitterns, storks, ibises and spoonbills


swans, geese and ducks

Accipitriformes and Falconiformes

wetland-related raptors


wetland-related cranes, rails and allies


wetland-related shorebirds, jacanas, gulls, & terns

For the full Ramsar Convention definition of waterbirds see this page.

Additional bird species, but typically not the entire families of such species, may be dependent on or closely associated with wetland habitats. These may be referred to as 'other wetland-associated birds' and in Queensland they include certain kingfishers, warblers and finches and a suite of birds that primarily occur in mangrove wetlands. Some waterbirds are also called shorebirds.


Shorebirds, also known as waders, are species within the order Charadriiformes, which typically wade in water in search of food[1]. Shorebird species occurring in Queensland are listed here.

Protection of waterbirds

The Queensland Government shares responsibility for the management of waterbirds. Several of the other waterbirds occurring in Queensland are significant because they are listed under State or National legislation as threatened or migratory species, or under global agreements. It is important for managers of wetland sites and wildlife to be aware of the lists of such species in order to inform management actions.

Additional information

Pages under this section


  1. ^ Geering, ADW, Agnew, L & Harding, S (2007), Shorebirds of Australia. [online], CSIRO Pub., Victoria, Australia. Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2020].

Last updated: 2 February 2021

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2021) Birds, WetlandInfo website, accessed 18 March 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation