Researchers track threatened shorebirds in Hunter and Port Stephens estuaries

Hunter Local Land Services (LLS) is calling on visitors to the Hunter and Port Stephens estuaries to watch out for threatened shorebirds, with new signs installed across the region highlighting key feeding and nesting sites as part of a major tracking and protection program.

Funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, the project is identifying threats to shorebirds and developing strategies to protect them including research, habitat restoration and community engagement.

Shorebirds, also known as waders, are a group of long-legged birds that live on the fringes of lakes, estuaries and coastlines feeding on worms and crustaceans.

Reegan Walker, Senior Project Officer with Hunter LLS, said that many people don’t realise that there are so many threatened shorebird species in the region.

“There are five threatened shorebirds species that travel to the Hunter and Port Stephens estuaries every year from their Arctic breeding grounds.”

“Incredibly, researchers have recorded non-stop flights of around 9000km during these journeys,” said Mr Walker.

The project is funding the installation of a large-scale radio tracking system to provide highly accurate 24-hour information detailing shorebird movements within each estuary – the first such system in Australia.

“Migratory shorebirds come here with one key objective: to gain enough weight to sustain them on their long flight back to their breeding ground. They must eat as much as possible, and when not eating, they must rest to conserve their energy,” said Mr Walker.

“We are working with the University of Newcastle to find out exactly where these birds are feeding and resting, so we can ensure those sites are properly managed.”

Hunter Local Land Services and partner organisations are asking recreational visitors to the Port Stephens and Hunter estuary areas to look out for shorebirds either feeding or resting, and to give them a wide berth to avoid disturbing them from these crucial activities.

“We’ve worked with MidCoast Council, Port Stephens Council and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to install fifteen shorebird identification signs at key visitor locations across the region.”

“The signs provide images of different shorebird species and information detailing their long journey back to the Arctic to breed,” said Mr Walker.

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