Consultation Document on Listing Eligibility and Conservation Actions Numenius madagascariensis



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Consultation Document on Listing Eligibility and Conservation Actions
Numenius madagascariensis (eastern curlew)

You are invited to provide your views about:

1) the eligibility of Numenius madagascariensis (eastern curlew) for inclusion on the EPBC Act threatened species list; and

2) the necessary conservation actions for the above species.

The views of experts, stakeholders and the general public are welcome. Responses can be provided by any interested person.

Anyone may nominate a native species, ecological community or threatening process for listing under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) or for a transfer of an item already on the list to a new listing category. The Threatened Species Scientific Committee (the Committee) undertakes the assessment of species to determine eligibility for inclusion in the list of threatened species and provides its recommendation to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment.

Draft information for your consideration of the eligibility of this species for listing as endangered starts at page 3 and information associated with potential conservation actions for this species starts at page 10. To assist with the Committee’s assessment, the Committee has identified a series of specific questions on which it seeks your guidance at page 15.
Responses to are to be provided in writing either by email to: species.consultation@environment.gov.au
or by mail to:
The Director

Migratory Species Section

Wildlife, Heritage and Marine Division

Department of the Environment

PO Box 787

Canberra ACT 2601


Responses are required to be submitted by 14 November 2014.

Contents of this information package

Page

General background information about listing threatened species

2

Information about this consultation process

2

Draft information about the eastern curlew and its eligibility for listing

3

Conservation actions for the species

10

References cited

12

Collective list of questions – your views

15



General background information about listing threatened species

The Australian Government helps protect species at risk of extinction by listing them as threatened under Part 13 of the EPBC Act. Once listed under the EPBC Act, the species becomes a Matter of National Environmental Significance (MNES) and must be protected from significant impacts through the assessment and approval provisions of the EPBC Act. More information about threatened species is available on the department’s website at:

http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/index.html.

The listing of species is driven by a public nomination process. Public nominations to list threatened species under the EPBC Act are received annually by the department. In order to determine if a species is eligible for listing as threatened under the EPBC Act, the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (the Committee) undertakes a rigorous scientific assessment of its status to determine if the species is eligible for listing against a set of criteria. These criteria are available on the Department’s website at: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/pubs/guidelines-species.pdf.

As part of the assessment process, the Committee consults with the public and stakeholders to obtain specific details about the species, as well as advice on what conservation actions might be appropriate. Information provided through the consultation process is considered by the Committee in its assessment. The Committee provides its advice on the assessment (together with comments received) to the Minister regarding the eligibility of the species for listing under a particular category and what conservation actions might be appropriate. The Minister decides to add, or not to add, the species to the list of threatened species under the EPBC Act. More detailed information about the listing process is at: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/nominations.html.

To promote the recovery of listed threatened species and ecological communities, conservation advices and where required, recovery plans are made or adopted in accordance with Part 13 of the EPBC Act. Conservation advices provide guidance at the time of listing on known threats and priority recovery actions that can be undertaken at a local and regional level. Recovery plans describe key threats and identify specific recovery actions that can be undertaken to enable recovery activities to occur within a planned and logical national framework. Information about recovery plans is available on the department’s website at: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/recovery.html.



Information about this consultation process

Responses to this consultation can be provided electronically or in hard copy to the contact addresses provided on Page 1. All responses received will be provided in full to the Committee and then to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment.

In providing comments, please provide references to published data where possible. Should the Committee use the information you provide in formulating its advice, the information will be attributed to you and referenced as a ‘personal communication’ unless you provide references or otherwise attribute this information (please specify if your organisation requires that this information is attributed to your organisation instead of yourself). The final advice by the Committee will be published on the department’s website following the listing decision by the Minister.

Information provided through consultation may be subject to freedom of information legislation and court processes. It is also important to note that under the EPBC Act, the deliberations and recommendations of the Committee are confidential until the Minister has made a final decision on the nomination, unless otherwise determined by the Minister.


Numenius madagascariensis
EASTERN CURLEW
Taxonomy

Conventionally accepted as eastern curlew Numenius madagascariensis Linnaeus, 1766, Scolopacidae. Other common names include Australian or sea curlew, far eastern curlew and curlew.

Monotypic, no subspecies are recognised (Bamford et al., 2008). Taxonomic uniqueness: medium (22 genera/family, 8 species/genus, 1 subspecies/species; Garnett et al., 2011).

Description

The eastern curlew is the largest migratory shorebird in the world, with a long neck, long legs, and a heavy downcurved bill. The wingspan is 110 cm and the birds weigh approximately 900 g. The head and neck are dark brown, streaked with darker brown. The chin and throat are whitish and there is a prominent white eye-ring; the iris is dark brown. The feathers of the upper parts of the body are brown, with blackish centres, and have broad pale rufous or olive-brown edges or notches. The tail is grey-brown with narrow dark banding on the feathers. The underside of the bird is dark brownish-buff, becoming paler on the rear belly. There is fine dark-brown streaking on the fore-neck and breast, which becomes thicker arrow-shaped streaks and barring on the fore-flanks. The upper belly and rear flanks have finer and sparser dark streaking. The underneath of the wing is whitish, but appears darker due to fine dark barring. The bill is dark brown with a pinkish base and the legs and feet are blue-grey.

The sexes are similar, but the female is slightly larger and has a longer bill (Higgins & Davies, 1996).

Distribution



Australian distribution

Within Australia, the eastern curlew has a primarily coastal distribution. The species is found in all states, particularly the north, east, and south-east regions including Tasmania. Eastern curlews are rarely recorded inland. They have a continuous distribution from Barrow Island and Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia, through the Kimberley Division and along Northern Territory, Queensland, and NSW coasts and the islands of Torres Strait. They are patchily distributed elsewhere.

In Victoria, they are mostly found around the Gippsland Lakes, from Corner Inlet to Port Phillip Bay, and on the far west coast. Eastern curlews are found on islands in Bass Strait and the north and east coasts of Tasmania. In South Australia, the species is scarce between the Victorian border and Cape Jaffa and patchily distributed from the Coorong north-west to the Streaky Bay area, and has previously been recorded in Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert, South Australia. In southern Western Australia, eastern curlews are recorded from Eyre, and there are scattered records from Stokes Inlet to Peel Inlet. The species is a scarce visitor to Houtman Abrolhos and adjacent mainland, and is also recorded around Shark Bay. It is also recorded on Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island (Marchant & Higgins, 1993).

Global distribution

The eastern curlew is endemic to the East Asian – Australasian Flyway. It breeds in Siberia and Kamchatka, Russia, Mongolia and north-eastern China. Eastern curlew breeds in southern Ussuriland, Iman River, scattered through south, west and north Kamchatka, lower and middle Amur River basin, Lena River basin, between 110° E and 130° E up to 65° N, and on the Upper Yana River, at 66° N.

The eastern curlew is a common passage migrant in Japan, Republic of Korea, China and Indonesia, and is occasionally recorded moving through Thailand and the Malay Peninsula. During the non-breeding season a few birds occur in southern Republic of Korea, Japan and China, About 25% of the population is thought to winter in the Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea but most (estimated at 73% or 28 000 individuals) spend the non-breeding season in Australia. Eastern curlews are regular non-breeding visitors to New Zealand in small numbers, and occur rarely on Kermadec Island and the Chatham Islands (Marchant & Higgins, 1993).

Cultural Significance

The Indigenous cultural value of the species is unknown.

Relevant Biology/Ecology



Life history

A generation time of 6.8 years (BirdLife International, 2014) is derived from an age at first breeding of 2.3 years, an annual adult survival of 79% and a maximum longevity of 24 years, all values extrapolated from congeners (Garnett et al., 2011).

Data extracted from the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS) reports a longevity record of 19 years, 1 month (Australian Government, 2014).

Breeding

The eastern curlew does not breed in Australia.

Eastern curlews nest in the Northern Hemisphere summer, from early May to late June, often in small colonies of two to three pairs. They nest on small mounds in swampy ground, often near where wild berries are growing. The nest is lined with dry grass and twigs. The birds may delay breeding until three to four years of age (del Hoyo et al., 1996).

General habitat

During the non-breeding season in Australia, the eastern curlew is most commonly associated with sheltered coasts, especially estuaries, bays, harbours, inlets and coastal lagoons, with large intertidal mudflats or sandflats, often with beds of seagrass (Zosteraceae). Occasionally, the species occurs on ocean beaches (often near estuaries), and coral reefs, rock platforms, or rocky islets. The birds are often recorded among saltmarsh and on mudflats fringed by mangroves, and sometimes use the mangroves. The birds are also found in saltworks and sewage farms (Marchant & Higgins, 1993).



Feeding habitat

The eastern curlew mainly forages during the non-breeding season on soft sheltered intertidal sandflats or mudflats, open and without vegetation or covered with seagrass, often near mangroves, on saltflats and in saltmarsh, rockpools and among rubble on coral reefs, and on ocean beaches near the tideline. The birds are rarely seen on near-coastal lakes or in grassy areas (Marchant & Higgins, 1993).



Roosting habitat

The eastern curlew roosts during high tide periods on sandy spits and islets, especially on dry beach sand near the high-water mark, and among coastal vegetation including low saltmarsh or mangroves. It occasionally roosts on reef-flats, in the shallow water of lagoons and other near-coastal wetlands. Eastern curlews are also recorded roosting in trees and on the upright stakes of oyster-racks (Marchant & Higgins, 1993). At Roebuck Bay, Western Australia, birds have been recorded flying from their feeding areas on the tidal flats to roost 5 km inland on a claypan (Collins et al., 2001). In some conditions, shorebirds may choose roost sites where a damp substrate lowers the local temperature. This may have important conservation implications where these sites are heavily disturbed beaches (Rogers, 1999). It may be possible to create artificial roosting sites to replace those destroyed by development (Harding et al., 1999). Eastern curlews typically roost in large flocks, separate from other shorebirds (Marchant & Higgins, 1993).



Feeding

The eastern curlew is carnivorous during the non-breeding season, mainly eating crustaceans (including crabs, shrimps and prawns), small molluscs, as well as some insects. There are no detailed studies of this species' diet in Australia. In Roebuck Bay, Western Australia, the birds feed mainly on large crabs, but will also catch mantis shrimps and chase mudskippers (Rogers, 1999).

The eastern curlew is extremely wary and will take flight at the first sign of danger, long before other nearby shorebirds become nervous. The birds are both diurnal and nocturnal with feeding and roosting cycles determined by the tides. Eastern curlews find the burrows of prey by sight during the day or in bright moonlight, but also locate prey by touch. The sexual differences in bill length lead to corresponding differences in diet and behaviour (Marchant & Higgins, 1993). Eastern curlews usually feed singly or in loose flocks. Occasionally, this species is seen in large feeding flocks of hundreds (Marchant & Higgins, 1993).

Migration patterns

The eastern curlew is migratory. After breeding, they move south for the Northern Hemisphere winter. The birds migrate by day and night at varying altitudes (Marchant & Higgins, 1993).



Departure from breeding grounds

Eastern curlews leave Kamchatka Peninsula (Eastern Russia) from mid-July. There is a weak migration through Ussuriland, Russia, from mid-July to late September and birds pass through Kurile Island and Sakhalin, (Eastern Russia), from mid-July to late August (P.S. Tomkovich pers comm. in Marchant & Higgins, 1993). Fewer birds appear in continental Asia on the southern migration than on the northern migration (Dement'ev & Gladkov, 1951). Eastern curlews are commonly seen in Republic of Korea, Japan and China during August-October, but also migrate through Thailand, the Malaysian Peninsular, Singapore, the Philippines, and Borneo (Indonesia), broadly between August and December (Marchant & Higgins, 1993). The birds arrive in north-west and eastern Australia as early as July (Lane, 1987). In north-west Australia, the maximum arrival was recorded between mid-August and the end of August (Minton & Watkins, 1993). There is an onward movement from north-west Australia by October (Lane, 1987). Most birds arriving in eastern Australia appear to move down the coast from northern Queensland with influxes occurring on the east coast from mid-August to late December, particularly in late August. Counts suggest there is a general southward movement until mid-February (Alcorn, 1988). Records from Toowoomba, Broken Hill and the Murray-Darling region in August and September suggest that some birds move overland (Marchant & Higgins, 1993) and arrival along the east and south-east Australian coasts suggests some fly directly to these areas (Alcorn, 1988). In Victoria, most birds arrive in November, with small numbers moving west along the coast as early as August (Lane, 1987). In southern Tasmania, most arrive in late August to early October and a few until December (Marchant & Higgins, 1993). When eastern curlews first arrive in Tasmania they are found at many localities before congregating at Ralphs Bay or Sorell (Thomas, 1968).

Eastern curlews arrive in New Zealand from the second week of August until mid-November with median date mid-October (Marchant & Higgins, 1993).

Non-breeding season

During the non-breeding season small numbers of eastern curlew occur in southern Republic of Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan. Unquantified numbers occur in Papua New Guinea, Borneo, and possibly Peninsular Malaysia and the Philippines (Marchant & Higgins, 1993). The majority of the eastern curlew population is found in Australia during the non-breeding season (Bamford et al., 2008), mostly at a few sites on the east and south coasts and in north-western Australia (Lane, 1987). Population numbers are stable at most sites in November or between December-February, indicating little movement during this period (Lane, 1987; Alcorn, 1988). Eastern curlews move locally between high-tide roost-sites and intertidal feeding zones (Marchant & Higgins, 1993).



Return to breeding grounds

In Australia, most eastern curlews leave between late February and March-April (Marchant & Higgins, 1993). The birds depart New Zealand from mid-March to mid-May (Marchant & Higgins, 1993). The species has been recorded on passage elsewhere mostly between March and May, arriving at Kamchatka, Russia, during May (Marchant & Higgins, 1993).

In larger shorebirds including eastern curlew, most birds spend their second austral (southern) winter in Australia, and some or all may also spend their third winter here before undertaking their first northward migration to the breeding grounds (Wilson, 2000).

Descriptions of migratory pathways and important sites

Internationally, the Yellow Sea is extremely important as stopover habitat for eastern curlews. It supports about 80% of the estimated flyway population on the northern migration, but fewer seem to use the region during the southern migration. Relatively few eastern curlews pass through Japan. Thirteen sites of international importance have been identified in the Yellow Sea (six in China, six in Republic of Korea and one in North Korea). Twelve sites are important during the northern migration and seven during the southern migration, with six sites (Dong Sha, Shuangtaizihekou National Nature Reserve, Ganghwa Do, Yeong Jong Do, Mangyeung Gang Hagu and Dongjin Gang Hagu) important during both (Barter, 2002).

Threats

Threats in Australia, especially eastern and southern Australia, include ongoing human disturbance, habitat loss and degradation from pollution, changes to the water regime and invasive plants (Rogers et al., 2006; Australian Government, 2009; Garnett et al., 2011).



Human disturbance can cause shorebirds to interrupt their feeding or roosting and may influence the area of otherwise suitable feeding habitat that is actually used. Eastern curlews take flight when humans approach to within 30–100 metres (Taylor & Bester, 1999), or even up to 250 meters away (Peter, 1990). Coastal development, land reclamation, construction of barrages and stabilisation of water levels can destroy feeding habitat (Close & Newman, 1984). Pollution around settled areas may reduce the availability of food (Close & Newman, 1984).

Formerly, eastern curlews were shot for food in Tasmania (Marchant & Higgins, 1993). The species has been hunted intensively on breeding grounds and at stopover points while on migration (Marchant & Higgins, 1993).

Eastern curlews are threatened by wetland degradation in the Yellow Sea where it stages on migration (Bamford et al., 2008; van de Kam et al., 2010; Murray et al., 2014). Threats along their migratory route include environmental pollution, reduced river flows, human disturbance and reclamation for tidal power plants and barrages, industrial use and urban expansion (Barter, 2002; Kelin and Qiang, 2006; Moores, 2006). Additional threats include disturbance at nesting sites and hunting on the breeding grounds (Barter et al., 1997).

Assessment of available information in relation to the EPBC Act Criteria and Regulations

Criterion 1: Reduction in numbers (based on any of A1 – A4)

A1. An observed, estimated, inferred or suspected population very severe 90%, severe 70% substantial 50% size reduction over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer, where the causes of the reduction are clearly reversible AND understood AND ceased, based on (and specifying) any of the following:

(a) direct observation

(b) an index of abundance appropriate to the taxon

(c) a decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence and/or quality of habitat

(d) actual or potential levels of exploitation

(e) the effects of introduced taxa, hybridization, pathogens, pollutants, competitors or parasites.

A2. An observed, estimated, inferred or suspected population very severe 80%, severe 50% substantial 30% size reduction over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer, where the reduction or its causes may not have ceased OR may not be understood OR may not be reversible, based on (and specifying) any of (a) to (e) under A1.

A3. A population size reduction very severe 80%, severe 50% substantial 30%, projected or suspected to be met within the next 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer (up to a maximum of 100 years), based on (and specifying) any of (b) to (e) under A1.

A4. An observed, estimated, inferred, projected or suspected population size reduction very severe 80%, severe 50% substantial 30% over any 10 year or three generation period, whichever is longer (up to a maximum of 100 years in the future), where the time period must include both the past and the future, and where the reduction or its causes may not have ceased OR may not be understood OR may not be reversible, based on (and specifying) any of (a) to (e) under A1.



Evidence

The global population estimate was 38 000 individuals including 28 000 in Australia (Bamford et al., 2008), but numbers have recently declined (Garnett et al., 2011).

Numbers appear to have declined on Eighty-mile Beach, WA by c.40% between 2000 and 2008, whereas numbers at Roebuck Bay, WA have remained relatively stable (Rogers et al., 2009). At Moreton Bay, QLD they declined by c. 2.4% per year between 1992 and 2008 (Wilson et al., 2011), across the whole of QLD they declined by c. 4.14% between 1992 and 2008 (Fuller et al., 2009), in Tasmania by 80% between the 1950s and 2000 (Reid & Park, 2003) and by 40% across 49 Australian sites between 1983 and 2007 (BirdLife Australia in litt. 2011).

Numbers declined less severely elsewhere in the flyway, e.g. there were no clear trends in Japan between 1978 and 2008 (Amano et al., 2010).

A panel of experts assessing the eastern curlew for The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010 determined that the species met the criteria for listing as vulnerable (Garnett et al., 2011). A subsequent and more detailed assessment by a University of Queensland team (partly funded by the Department of the Environment under an Australian Research Council collaborative grant), puts the species into the endangered category (Fuller, pers. comm., 2014).

Time series data from directly observed summer counts at a large number of sites across Australia indicate a severe population decline of 67.9% over 20 years (5.8% per year; Fuller, pers. comm. 2014), which for this species is equal to three generations (Garnett et al., 2011).

In large part, the observed decline in eastern curlew numbers across Australia stems from ongoing loss of intertidal mudflat habitat at key migration staging sites in the Yellow Sea (Murray et al., 2014). As such, qualification under criterion A2 rather than A1 seems warranted. However, threats are occurring locally in Australia such as coastal development and recreational activities causing disturbance also impact the species.

The data presented above appear to demonstrate that the species is eligible for listing as endangered under this criterion. However, the purpose of this consultation draft advice is to elicit additional information to better understand the species status. This conclusion should therefore be considered to be tentative at this stage, as it may be changed as a result of responses to this consultation process.


Criterion 2:

Geographic distribution (based on either of B1 or B2)

B1. Extent of occurrence estimated to be very restricted <100 km2, restricted <5000 km2 or limited < 20 000 km2

B2. Area of occupancy estimated to be very restricted <10 km2, restricted <500 km2 or limited <2000 km2

AND

Geographic distribution is precarious for the survival of the species,



(based on at least two of a–c)

a. Severely fragmented or known to exist at a limited location.

b. Continuing decline, observed, inferred or projected, in any of the following:

(i) extent of occurrence

(ii) area of occupancy

(iii) area, extent and/or quality of habitat

(iv) number of locations or subpopulations

(v) number of mature individuals.

c. Extreme fluctuations in any of the following:

(i) extent of occurrence

(ii) area of occupancy

(iii) number of locations or subpopulations

(iv) number of mature individuals


Evidence

The extent of occurrence in Australia is estimated to be 30 000 km2 (stable) and area occupied 8 500 km2 (decreasing; Garnett et al., 2011).

The data presented above appear to demonstrate that the species is not eligible for listing under this criterion, as the area of occurrence and occupancy is not very restricted, restricted or limited. However, the purpose of this consultation draft advice is to elicit additional information to better understand the species status. This conclusion should therefore be considered to be tentative at this stage, as it may be changed as a result of responses to this consultation process.



Criterion 3: The estimated total number of mature individuals is very low <250, low <2500 or limited<10 000; and either of (A) or (B) is true

(A) evidence suggests that the number will continue to decline at a very high (25% in 3 years or 1 generation (up to 100 years), whichever is longer), high (20% in 5 years or 2 generations(up to 100 years), whichever is longer) or substantial (10% in 10 years or 3 generations years), whichever is longer (up to 100) rate; or

(B) the number is likely to continue to decline and its geographic distribution is precarious for its survival (based on at least two of a – c):

a. Severely fragmented or known to exist at a limited location.

b. Continuing decline, observed, inferred or projected, in any of the following:

(i) extent of occurrence

(ii) area of occupancy

(iii) area, extent and/or quality of habitat

(iv) number of locations or subpopulations

(v) number of mature individuals.

c. Extreme fluctuations in any of the following:

(i) extent of occurrence

(ii) area of occupancy

(iii) number of locations or subpopulations

(iv) number of mature individuals


Evidence

The number of mature individuals in Australia is estimated to be 28 000 with a decreasing trend (Bamford et al., 2008; Garnett et al., 2011).

The data presented above appear to demonstrate that the species is not eligible for listing under this criterion, as the estimated population is greater than 10 000. However, the purpose of this consultation draft advice is to elicit additional information to better understand the species status. This conclusion should therefore be considered to be tentative at this stage, as it may be changed as a result of responses to this consultation process.



Criterion 4: Estimated total number of mature individuals:

(a) Extremely low < 50

(b) Very low < 250

(c) Low < 1000



Evidence

The number of mature individuals in Australia is estimated to be 28 000 with a decreasing trend (Bamford et al., 2008; Garnett et al., 2011).

The data presented above appear to demonstrate that the species is not eligible for listing under this criterion. However, the purpose of this consultation draft advice is to elicit additional information to better understand the species status. This conclusion should therefore be considered to be tentative at this stage, as it may be changed as a result of responses to this consultation process.



Criterion 5: Probability of extinction in the wild based on quantitative analysis is at least:

(a) 50% in the immediate future, 10 years or three generations (whichever is longer); or

(b) 20% in the near future, 20 year or five generations (whichever is longer); or

(c) 10% in the medium-term future, within 100 years.



Evidence

Population viability analysis has not been undertaken for this species, therefore there is insufficient information to assess against this criterion.

Recovery Plan

There should not be a recovery plan for this species, as approved conservation advice provides sufficient direction to implement priority actions and mitigate against key threats. Significant management and research is being undertaken at international, state and local levels.


For example, an International Single Species Action Plan under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals has been proposed to be developed and implemented across the East Asian – Australasian Flyway. Additionally, BirdLife Australia coordinates Australia’s national shorebird monitoring program, Shorebirds 2020. This volunteer-based program conducts national shorebird surveys twice per year.

Recovery and Impact avoidance guidance



Primary Conservation Objectives
1. Achieve a stable or increasing population.

2. Maintain and enhance important habitat.

3. Reduce disturbance at key roosting and feeding sites.

4. Raise awareness of eastern curlew within the local community.




Important populations

All areas where 1% of the flyway population occurs is conventionally considered internationally important ( 380 individuals) and of high conservation significance (see below). There are several sites in Australia which meet this criterion for eastern curlew. Sites of significance, with maximum population counts in parenthesis, are as follows (adapted from Bamford et al., 2008):

Great Sandy Strait, QLD (6 018) (i.e. 15.8% of the global population of eastern curlew)

Moreton Bay, QLD (3 500)

Shoalwater Bay and Broad Sound, QLD (2 986)

Corner Inlet, VIC (2 281)

Roebuck Bay, WA (2 160)

Notch Point, QLD (1 850)

SE Gulf of Carpentaria, QLD (1 811)

Western Port Bay, VIC (1 294)

Chambers Bay, NT (1 050)

Port Stephens, NSW (960)

Western Port Phillip Bay, VIC (808)

Mackay Town Beach, QLD (710)

Eighty-mile Beach, WA (709)

Castlereagh Bay, NT (700)

Buckingham Bay, NT (700)

Hunter Estuary, NSW (653)

Shallow Inlet/Sandy Point, VIC (622)

Port McArthur, NT (407)



Important habitat for the survival of the species

Important habitat for migratory shorebirds in Australia consists of both nationally and internationally important sites (Australian Government, 2009). The widely accepted and applied approach to identifying internationally important shorebird habitat throughout the world has been through the use of criteria adopted under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. According to this approach, habitat should be considered internationally important if it regularly supports:

1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of waterbird, or

A total abundance of at least 20 000 waterbirds.

Nationally important habitat for migratory shorebirds is defined using a similar approach to these international criteria. Nationally important habitat for migratory species is defined as habitat that supports at least:

0.1% per cent of the flyway population of a single species

2 000 migratory shorebirds, or

15 shorebirds species

[Extract from EPBC Act policy statement 3.21 –Significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebird species]

Information required, research and monitoring priorities

1. Enhance existing migratory shorebird population monitoring programmes, particularly to improve coverage across northern Australia

2. More precisely assess eastern curlew population size, distribution and ecological requirements particularly across northern Australia.

3. Improve knowledge about dependence of eastern curlew on key migratory staging sites, and wintering sites to the north of Australia.

4. Improve knowledge about threatening processes including the impacts of disturbance.

Management actions required

1. Work with governments along the East Asian – Australasian Flyway to prevent destruction of key migratory staging sites.

2. Develop and implement a Single Species Action Plan for eastern curlew under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

3. Maintain and improve protection of roosting and feeding sites in Australia.

4. Incorporate requirements for eastern curlews into coastal planning and management.

5. Manage important sites to identify, control and reduce the spread of invasive species.

6. Manage disturbance at important sites when eastern curlews are present – e.g. discourage or prohibit vehicle access, horse riding and dogs on beaches, implement temporary site closures.

7. Monitor the progress of recovery, including the effectiveness of management actions and the need to adapt them if necessary.


References cited in the advice

Alcorn, R. (1988). Australasian Wader Study Group Regular Wader Counts Project. Interim report to June 1987: migratory waders. Stilt. 12:7-23.

Amano, T., Székely, T., Koyama, K., Amano, H., & Sutherland, W.J. (2010). A framework for monitoring the status of populations: an example from wader populations in the East Asian-Australasian flyway. Biological Conservation 143, 2238-2247.

Australian Government, (2009). Draft significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebirds. Draft EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.21, Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment and Heritage.

Australian Government, (2014). Australian Bird & Bat Banding Scheme Database, accessed 25 July 2014. Department of the Environment, Canberra.

Bamford, M., Watkins, D., Bancroft, W., Tischler, G., & Wahl, J. (2008). Migratory Shorebirds of the East Asian - Australasian Flyway: Population estimates and internationally important sites. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Wetlands International-Oceania. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/migratory/publications/shorebirds-east-asia.html.

Barter, M.A. (2002). Shorebirds of the Yellow Sea: Importance, Threats and Conservation Status. Wetlands International Global Series No. 8, International Wader Studies 12. Canberra, ACT: Wetlands International.

Barter, M., Fawen, Q., Sixian, T., Xiao, Y., & Tonkinson, D. (1997). Hunting of migratory waders on Chongming Dao: a declining occupation? Stilt 31, 19-22.

BirdLife International, (2014). Species factsheet: Numenius madagascariensis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 23/06/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 23/06/2014.

Blakers, M., S.J.J.F. Davies & Reilly, P.M. (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Melbourne University Press.

Close, D.H., & Newman, O.M.G. (1984). The decline of the Eastern Curlew in south-eastern Australia. Emu. 84:38--40.

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del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., & Sargatal, J., (eds) (1996). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3, Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

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Questions to Stakeholders


  1. Do you agree with the current taxonomic position of the Australian Faunal Directory and Birdlife Australia for this species (as identified in the draft conservation advice)

1.Can you provide any additional references, information or estimates on longevity, age of maturity, average life span and generation length?

2.Has the survey effort for this species been adequate to determine its national distribution and adult population size?
3.Do you accept the estimate provided in the nomination for the current population size of the species?
4.For any population with which you are familiar, do you agree with the population estimate provided? If not, are you able to provide a plausible estimate based on your own knowledge? If so, please provide in the form:

Lower bound (estimated minimum):

Upper bound (estimated maximum):

Best Estimate:

Estimated level of Confidence: %
5.Can you provide any additional data, not contained in the current nomination, on declines in population numbers over the past or next 10 years or 3 generations, whichever is the longer?
6.Is the distribution as described in the nomination valid? Can you provide an estimate of the current geographic distribution (extent of occurrence or area of occupancy in km2) of this species?
7.Has this geographic distribution declined and if so by how much and over what period of time?
8.Do you agree that the species is eligible for inclusion on the threatened species list, in the category listed in the nomination?
9.Do you agree that the threats listed are correct and that their effects on the species are significant?


  1. To what degree are the identified threats likely to impact on the species in the future?




  1. Can you provide additional or alternative information on threats, past, current or potential that may adversely affect this species at any stage of its life cycle?

10.In seeking to facilitate the recovery of this species, can you provide management advice for the following:


What individuals or organisations are currently, or need to be, involved in planning to abate threats and any other relevant planning issues?

What threats are impacting on different populations, how variable are the threats and what is the relative importance of the different populations?



What recovery actions are currently in place, and can you suggest other actions that would help recover the species? Please provide evidence and background information.
11.Can you provide additional data or information relevant to this assessment?

Numenius madagascariensis (eastern curlew) consultation

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