The Importance of NW Tasmanian Estuaries to the Australian Pied Oystercatcher Haemantopus longuirostris

Mrs Hazel Britton1

1Cradle Coast NRM, Burnie, Australia


The Australian Pied Oystercatcher  has an estimated population of around 11,000, although it is believed to be declining in parts of its range. Due to inland Australia’s arid conditions it is restricted to coastal habitats around Australia and S New Guinea. The majority of birds  occur south of the Tropic of Capricorn, with Tasmania being a stronghold for the species.

NW Tasmania remains relatively undisturbed and has a convoluted coastline with large areas of suitable feeding habitat where Pied Oystercatchers can breed and immatures survive until entering the breeding population.  The Duck River Estuary in the west and the Rubicon Estuary in the east of the region support large numbers of this species, estimated to hold up to 8% of the population. Both these estuaries lie within two of BirdLife Australia’s Key Biodiversity Areas.  Although good count data is less available for many of the other estuaries in the region, monitoring suggests that the region is likely to support a further 660 (or 6%).  The total for this region amounting to 14% of the estimated total world population.

Under the Ramsar Convention Group B (section 6), sites regularly supporting 1% of the population of a wetland species are considered as Internationally Important. With threats from climate change such as rising sea levels inundating traditional nest sites and increased development and recreational use, this section of the Cradle Coast in NW Tasmania, with it’s estimated 14% of the world population of Australian Pied Oystercatchers is surely of extreme International Importance.


I am the Co-ordinator of the Resident Shorebird Monitoring Programme Stanley to Narawntapu NP (NW Tasmania) and I have also been the Co-ordinator for the NW Tasmania Winter and Summer Counts for BirdLife Tasmania/Australia.