Updated: 3 days ago
Since mid-November 2022 something rare in the Australian birding world has been happening on Bribie Island – the hatching of one of Queensland’s vulnerable shore birds, the Beach Stone-Curlew writes Terry Burgess.
Success! The 5-week-old Beach Stone-Curlew and its parent at Kakadu Shorebird Roost on 25 January 2023 (Photo by Paul Cuddihy)
The Kakadu Shorebird Roost – Not Just for Visitors
While the Kakadu Shorebird Roost is an artificial roost designed to attract migratory shorebirds when their feeding grounds and other local roost areas are submerged by rising tides, other birds living close to water have progressively adopted the area as their home, and quite frequently use it as their breeding site, particularly in the grassy areas well above the high-water level.
Enter the story of Kakadu Roost’s charismatic pair of Beach Stone-Curlew (whose last successful hatching was over the 2018/2019 summer) and their successful breeding, and subsequent hatching on 21 December 2022. Since the festive season, it’s been possible to closely observe the early weeks of the Beach Stone-Curlew hatchling and study its growth from a small furry ball to a juvenile, which is now almost indistinguishable from its parents in size and features - though it will still be a few months before it is completely independent.
While the adult Beach Stone-Curlews have been very protective of the nest and their offspring, their protective actions have not disturbed or put to flight the roosting migratory shorebirds.
The Successful Summer of 22/23
At the Kakadu Beach Roost, our pair possibly started nesting with a scrape made in August 2022, but no conclusive nesting activity was noted until mid-November 2022 when an adult was seen to occupy the nest, and thereafter the adults were observed guarding the nest site, taking turns to sit on the nest and chasing off other birds venturing too close. The easy access to the roost for observations of the nesting, hatching, and the early months of the chick/juvenile has made it possible for a detailed portfolio of photographs to be taken that show the developments of the hatchling/juvenile over the weeks.
A Very Special Little Bird
By late November 2022, the two adults became more vigilant around the nest and on 21 December 2022 the hatchling was first seen at the nest. After a few days, it was seen being escorted by the adults into the small mangrove area at the southern end of the migratory shorebird roost, which had been planted during the roost construction, offering much more protection for the newly hatched chick than the open roost.
By 1 January 2023 the little chick was moving around and flapping its “wings” outside the thicker cover of the mangroves to feed on the soldier crabs caught by the adults. By the time the chick was a month old, it was walking along the beach with the adults while they searched for food (mainly soldier crabs) occasionally sitting in the grass, out of sight of any predators.
The new chick just a few hours old [left]; 5 days old [centre]; and 18 days old [right] (Photos by Paul Cuddihy)
By early February 2023, the juvenile bird was a little bit more independent and was able to feed on its own. It was seen flying a short distance back to the adults on the beach.