Migrating birds make massive journey to shire

In town: Critically endangered Eastern Curlews. Picture: Gary Dunnett
In town: Critically endangered Eastern Curlews. Picture: Gary Dunnett

While many Sydneysiders can barely travel beyond their five-kilometre radius, some new visitors to the shire have travelled thousands of kilometres to make an appearance.

Local birdwatching groups have been excited to note the return of long-distance migratory shorebirds - even identifying individual birds who have made non-stop flights of more than 11,000 kilometres. A network of local and international researchers are collaborating to build knowledge of Sutherland's shorebird population and the long-distance routes they follow.

Julie Keating from the national Shorebird Monitoring Program said she program was "so proud" to take part in the research.

"It was very exciting for the people in the UK to know that an Eastern Curlew they flagged in China made it safely to the shire," she said.

"Eastern Curlews are critically endangered. At Maianbar last month, one female curlew arrived with a leg flag showing that she had come via Jiangsu in China, where she was banded on her journey from Siberia to Australia. "

Greater Sydney Local Land Services is working with National Parks and Wildlife, Sutherland Shire Council and the Georges Riverkeeper organisation on a range of strategies to improve local habitat for birds like the Eastern Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwits.

Ms Keating and researcher Debbie Andrew will be speaking at a free webinar hosted by Sutherland Shire Environment Centre and Greater Sydney Local Land Services tonight (Wednesday, October 13).

Ms Andrew has studied the migratory bird population for more than 20 years.

"It is wonderful we have important habitat in the shire where they can feed and rest, such as Towra Point, the Georges and Woronora rivers, and Port Hacking," she said. "Migratory shorebirds spend more than six months of their life in Australia - it's a critical part of their life cycle.

"After their epic migration... across the entire Pacific Ocean, shorebirds like the Bar-tailed Godwit need to recover body condition, moult and build fat reserves for their return migration to breeding grounds in March.

"Many people don't understand that shorebird numbers have crashed in recent years - giving them space undisturbed on the sand and mudflats is vital to allow them to survive."

Sutherland Shire Environment Centre spokeswoman Dr Tassia Kolesnikow said the webinar would help people understand more about the birds and their journey.

"Shorebirds are truly world record-holders for long-distance migration," she said.

"People are astounded to find out that some shorebirds in our shire migrate all the way from Alaska and Siberia.

"We are excited to host this webinar to feed this fascination and to promote a better understanding of how to protect them so today's children can show these incredible birds to their children in the future."

More details on the birds at ssec.org.au. Sign up for the webinar here.