Tasmania – the Australian refuge for beach-nesting shorebirds

Dr Eric Woehler OAM1

1Birdlife Tasmania


Surveys around Tasmania’s coast over the last 20 years have shown that Tasmania supports at least half the global populations of Hooded Plovers, Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers. These species are present elsewhere in Australia, but populations of all three species are decreasing rapidly on the mainland in the absence of intervention (such as beach closures).

With fewer people in Tasmania, the pressures on coastal areas and the shorebirds dependent on this habitat are lower than on the mainland. However, the Tasmanian Government is unwilling to undertake active conservation measures to protect beach-nesting shorebirds and terns. Tasmania currently receives c1.5M human visitors annually, three times the resident population, and the coastal areas of Tasmania feature in advertising efforts.

Unless coastal shorebird and tern values are explicitly recognised and protected, Tasmania’s shorebirds and terns will experience greater pressures in the near future, threatening the survival of these species’ populations in Tasmania. As mainland populations of these (and potentially other species of shorebird) decrease, Tasmania’s role as a refuge for shorebirds and small terns, and its contribution to global biodiversity conservation will increase rapidly.


Dr Eric Woehler has been working on shorebirds and seabirds around the world for more than 40 years.