The Redlands provides habitat essential to the survival of many different kinds of shorebirds. Our sandy beaches, seagrass meadows, mudflats and mangroves mean that every year, from September to April, thousands of migratory shorebirds arrive for their annual refuelling stopover.
Pied Oyster Catchers | Photo: Mariella Lacroix
Why are they here?
Many migratory shorebirds breed in the far north during the northern summer. From September to April the arctic is cold and dark, so the shorebirds head south to the sunny shores of Australia. Many come from as far away as Siberia and Alaska, flying 12,000km to reach Moreton Bay. Shorebirds need to feed and rest after their long journeys. At low tide you can see them foraging on the wetlands for food.
You can help our international visitors by observing them quietly from a distance and keeping your pets leashed. Research shows that even minor disturbances can affect their energy budgets and lessen their chances of survival.
What are shorebirds?
Shorebirds include the most spectacular of migratory species. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and do not have webbed feet. They generally have slender bills, long legs, and long pointed wings and include stilts, plovers, sandpipers, curlews, oystercatchers, avocets, godwits, snipes, jacanas, lapwings, pratincoles and other species.
Many have specific habitat requirements for feeding and roosting. Their great variety of bill shapes and sizes are indicative of their different feeding strategies and food preferences. Their alternate name, ‘waders’, refers to their habit of wading in shallow waters in search of food.
Shorebirds follow the tides, not the sun. If you want to spot shorebirds, it helps if you know what the tide is doing. At high tide, shorebirds will not be feeding - they'll be resting on high tide roosts. At low tide, there will probably be few shorebirds at a roost, since they will be out in the wetlands feeding.
Empire Point High Tide Roost
A good place to spot shorebirds is at the Empire Point High Tide Roost. This site was built specifically for shorebirds and is one of the first of its kind in Australia. A local community group of shorebird watchers from the Queensland Wader Study Group (WSG) promoted the concept and with assistance from Council the roost was designed and completed in 1995.
The site features a viewing area as well as a moat to deter disturbances to the birds. The WSG continues to monitor our shorebird visitors while Council maintains the site. The Environmental Protection Agency is also part of the site management, because the roost is in the Moreton Bay Marine Park and the shorebirds are protected by law.
Constructing a shorebird roost is full of challenges that need careful consideration and management including:
- size and suitability of the roost
- soil compaction and erosion considerations
- weed management on the high part of the roost
- mangrove encroachment
- disturbance from people and animals.
Where is Empire Point High Tide Wader Roost?
You can access the roost at high tide from Empire Vista (off Wellington Street, Ormiston). Follow the crushed coral raised causeway out to the viewing platform. Remember to bring binoculars or a spotting scope.
Back in time…
The raised causeway to the roost site is part of a former coral crushing operation from the 1960s. Coral was used for its limestone content in the cement making process. Dredge barges navigated in close to shore and trucks would drive out and load up with the coral.
This activity ceased about 20 years ago under community pressure and concern for the environmental effects of the dredging on Moreton Bay.
Helping the shorebirds
- The recreational offerings of Moreton Bay make it a great place to live. Shorebirds like it too and we can both share the region.
- Be aware of where shorebirds forage for food and keep your distance. Everybody needs their space - even birds.
- At high tide there are few places for shorebirds to go. They don’t roost in trees and they don’t float like ducks - they only have a limited range of places to go, so keep off of roosting sites.
- Dogs, 4WDs and boats threaten shorebirds. Every time they are forced to fly, they expend energy, decreasing their chances of making a successful return migration. Be aware of surrounding wildlife when you are out and about in Moreton Bay and go around flocks of feeding or resting shorebirds.