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Shorebirds Repulse Bay to Shoalwater

For this stretch of coast, the main shorebird feeding areas appear to be Repulse Bay, St Helen's Bay to Finlayson's Point, Sand Bay to Shoal Point, Mackay Town Beach to Sandringham Bay, and Llewellyn Bay to Ince Bay.

Farther to the south there are two large embayments, the Broad Sound and Shoalwater Bay and one smaller bay, Port Clinton. Shoalwater Bay and Port Clinton have high numbers of shorebirds and the Broad Sound has scattered occurrences of shorebirds.

Queensland shorebird species - Bird wetland indicator species and profiles

Quick facts

that have a significant presence within the region as a whole include the ruddy turnstone, sooty oystercatcher, lesser sand plover, greater sand plover, sharp-tailed sandpiper, bar-tailed godwit, red-necked stint, grey plover, great knot, common greenshank, grey-tailed tattler, Pacific golden plover and eastern curlew and, particularly in Shoalwater Bay, beach-stone curlew, Australian pied oystercatcher, whimbrel and terek sandpiper.

Shoalwater Bay area Photo by Amelia SellesRepulse Bay to Ince Bay and Cape Palmerston

Shorebirds along the coastline from Repulse Bay to Ince Bay and Cape Palmerston have been surveyed from 1981, with greater coverage since1995. The surveys, centred around Mackay, include a mostly contiguous stretch of shorebird habitat, with numbers totalling around 20,000 shorebirds.

This section of coastline lies within the Central Queensland Coast Bioregion. The relatively high numbers of shorebirds in this area is possibly a reflection of the high productivity of neighbouring terrestrial ecosystems, together with expansive feeding flats.

Repulse Bay has broad sandflats and scattered mudflats with surrounding seagrass and mangroves, some saltmarsh and saline flats adjoin these intertidal feeding areas. There are rocky intertidal areas south of Repulse Bay around Midge Point down to St Helen's Bay. From St Helen's Bay south there are a series of estuaries and embayments all the way to Cape Palmerston that support shorebirds. There are very wide tidal flats varying from deep mud to coarse sand and well-developed stands of mangroves.

Broad Sound to Shoalwater Bay

A few thorough assessments have been made of shorebirds in Shoalwater Bay and Port Clinton in the past and a study conducted in the Broad Sound by Wetlands International for the Fitzroy Basin Association has helped to better define the use by shorebirds of these parts of the coastline.

In the Broad Sound, fine grained, intertidal habitat occurs around the mouths and upstream along the Styx River, and Waverley, St Lawrence and Clairview Creeks. However, a tidal range of 9m results in strong currents that run across expansive intertidal flats where the substrate is mostly coarse-grained sand. These course grained flats tend to support few shorebirds. There remain knowledge gaps of the birdlife frequenting ephemeral wetlands between the Broad Sound and Shoalwater Bay.

The extensive intertidal flats of Broad Sound support fewer shorebirds than Shoalwater Bay although numbers of great knot (regularly over 2000) tend to be higher in Broad Sound. Saltmarshes and brackish and freshwater grass-sedge wetlands are relatively extensive from St Lawrence to Torilla Plain and are regularly used by moderate numbers of several migratory species. Numbers of some sandpipers occasionally exceed thresholds for international importance and high numbers of Latham’s snipe occur during northward migration. Australian painted snipe has been recorded at four sites around Broad Sound, in brackish and freshwater habitats, with breeding documented at some of the sites.

Waterbird habitat, Broad Sound Photo by Roger Jaensch

Shoalwater Bay, together with Port Clinton has over 20,000 shorebirds and is a significant shorebird habitat this is recognised through its inclusion of Shoalwater in the Flyway Site Network and as a Ramsar site, including its importance for eastern curlews.

There are wide intertidal flats that back onto mangroves or open foreshore with accompanying extensive supratidal saltflats and herblands. On the other side of the Bay is a maze of channels with less open intertidal area but with wide swathes of mangroves where whimbrel and terek sandpiper are very abundant. The northern shorelines of the Bay, including those of Townshend and Leicester Islands, are generally quite open, with small embayments often lined with mangroves between rocky headlands. Feeding areas are less extensive and there are lower numbers of birds but this area is important because it complements other sites and favours different species. There are significant populations of resident shorebirds in this region. The Australian pied oystercatcher numbers in the hundreds in both Shoalwater Bay and Port Clinton. The sooty oystercatcher and the beach stone-curlew are also present in this region. The beach stone-curlew may number around 50 pairs in the Shoalwater and Corio Bays Ramsar area, making this a national stronghold for this species.

Large numbers of red-necked stints have been recorded at a single roost site at Port Clinton.


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.

Last updated: 2 February 2021

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2021) Shorebirds Repulse Bay to Shoalwater, WetlandInfo website, accessed 1 February 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation