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Shorebird locations in Queensland

Shorebirds typically feed on intertidal mudflats and sandflats. They roost at high tide on small patches of adjoining land, claypans, saltmarshes or sandspits, as well as sometimes in mangroves. Much of the information on shorebird distribution comes from observations as they congregate at high tide roost sites, rather than when they are spread out foraging on intertidal habitat. The austral summer period between December and February is the best time to assess shorebirds because migratory species are most settled in their non-breeding sites. The summer populations reflect the suitability of an area to sustain birds for a long period and to meet food requirements before many migrate to northern countries to breed.

Overview of regional differences

Queensland shorebird species - Bird wetland indicator species and profiles

The large shallow embayments formed by the inshore sand islands of Stradbroke, Moreton, Bribie and Fraser Islands contribute to the quality and extent of coastal shorebird habitat in the south of the State. Further north, around Gladstone and Shoalwater Bay, there is also ample intertidal habitat in large bays or along open coastlines protected by nearby islands. Even farther north, there are a series of large and small bays and river mouths where shorebirds are plentiful. Smaller numbers of shorebirds occur at lower latitudes on the north eastern coastline and across Cape York Peninsula, where the mainland shoreline is often steeper and rockier with fewer shorebirds. In contrast, the south east Gulf of Carpentaria to the west of Cape York Peninsula is where the highest densities of shorebirds occur. This area is characterised by large rivers that nourish highly productive marine and estuarine ecosystems, the landscape and shoreline is flat with many kilometres of salt marsh and mangroves.

The distribution and abundance of shorebirds described here is for the non-breeding season along the Queensland coastline. It does not include detailed information on offshore islands, freshwater wetlands adjoining the coast, or inland areas. 

Historical context

Information on the numbers and distribution of migratory shorebirds in Australia started to accumulate in the late 1970’s and grew in the 1980’s with the establishment of the Australasian Wader Studies Group (AWSG). Work did not begin in earnest in Queensland until 1992 when the Queensland Wader Study Group (QWSG) was formed. The slow start in population assessment of shorebirds in Queensland was due to a vast coastline and the scarcity of volunteer shorebird watchers. Since the early 1990s much has been learnt about Queensland shorebirds through the activities of QWSG and others, e.g. Traditional Owners in the Gulf of Carpentaria, as well as through increased academic interest.


This information has been compiled by the Queensland Wader Study Group with input from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, researchers and volunteers (from Australasian Wader Study Group, Birds Queensland, the Port Curtis Wader Study Group, the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, Birds Australia and the Mackay Conservation Group).

These pages are primarily sourced from the report prepared by the Queensland Ornithological Society Inc for the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and the Australian Heritage Committee, Driscoll, P. V. 1995. Survey of wader and waterbird communities along the central Queensland coast.

Please note the information above is based on the best available at the time of publication.

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Last updated: 2 February 2021

This page should be cited as:

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

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation