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Bribie's Proudest Parents

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

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.

In early March 2023, it was venturing off on its own on the beach looking for food, but the adults were remaining close, ensuring that the juvenile didn’t encounter any difficulties and it will likely stay close to the parents for most of the coming year.

Growing, growing... 5 weeks old [left] and spreading its wings at 7 weeks [centre and left] (photos by Paul Cuddihy and Terry Burgess)

The State of the Beach Stone-Curlew

Beach Stone-Curlews (Esacus magnirostis) are crepuscular (most often seen around dawn and dusk) walking or running along the beach and occasionally flying – although are often seen and photographed walking on Kakadu Beach during the day. The adults are about half a metre in length, with a wingspan of just over a metre, having yellow eyes, a large bill, a short tail, and strong legs. They are ground-nesting and usually lay only one egg per nesting season. Beach Stone-Curlews are the largest of our beach-nesting birds and are classified as Endangered in the southern States of Australia, Critically Endangered in NSW, and Vulnerable in the rest of Australia including here in Queensland. In NSW, there exist only 9 known pairs, only 3 of which have been recorded as having raised a chick successfully in recent years, most notably the pair at Hastings Point in 2018, where local authorities implement feral animal control in an attempt to increase nesting the likelihood success.

On Bribie, we have two known pairs of these vulnerable shore birds. In November 2020, a nesting attempt at Norfolk Creek (2nd Lagoon) was reported to QPWS by Bribie Island Turtle Trackers (BITTs) volunteers, as it was in a high-traffic day-use area. Given the location and the conservation status of this species, protective measures could have been put in place in an attempt to increase the likelihood of nesting success, as they are being done in other jurisdictions for Beach Stone-Curlews, and for other threatened shorebird species around the country – such as efforts to assist the vulnerable Hooded Plover.

Protective measures are essential for Beach Stone-Curlew nesting success. (photo At Kakadu Shorebird Roost by Deirdre Reynolds Dec 2020)

Beach Stone-Curlews on Bribie [left] photo by Ian Bell]; at Toorbul [centre]; and the pair that attempted to nest at Norfolk Creek (Ocean Beach) in November 2020 (photo by Diane Oxenford) .

The Kakadu Roost – Internationally Significant

Our very own Kakadu Shorebird Roost is best known as the epicenter of Bribie’s annual migratory shorebird activity. As part of the Moreton Bay Ramsar internationally important wetland, a healthy, safe, and welcoming Pumicestone Passage is critical to the survival of thousands of migratory shorebirds using the East Asian – Australasian Flyway. The visiting shorebirds usually catch all the attention between September and April after their long flights from their Arctic breeding grounds. Through the leadership of Michael Strong of the QWSG (Queensland Water Study Group), other members of the QWSG, bird enthusiasts, and groups like Rotary which hold “Shorebird Days” at Kakadu Beach, many residents have gained an introductory knowledge of the migratory shorebirds and their habits over the last few years.

The East Asian – Australasian Flyway (Red) is the route taken from the Arctic by the migratory birds that visit Kakadu Roost each Summer. (Graphic by EAAFP Secretariat)

BIEPA supports the valuable work of Qld Wader Study Group, Redcliffe Environmental Forum, ESRAG, and Birdlife Australia and continues to advocate for increased and targeted protective strategies to counter disturbances, and protect all vulnerable species – including the Beach Stone-Curlew.

Our Thanks...

... to Michael Strong, who has been a regular reporter of the nesting and sightings while undertaking his QWSG migratory shorebird count, and Paul Cuddihy for his extensive photographic records & other local residents who have watched and photographed the birds over the months. Thanks also to the Rangers from Moreton Bay Regional Council and Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service, who made sure the birds remained undisturbed. Footnote 11/3: After we first published this story, we started to get reports of sightings all over Bribie! These reports were of course of the Beach Stone-Curlew's more common cousin, the Bush Stone-Curlew (Burhinus grallarius) – who can often be seen in the open grasslands, parks and even the backyards of Bribie residences!

Know your Stone-Curlews: This is the Bush Stone-Curlew – aka Bush Thick-Knee – a far more common (but no less handsome of course) resident of Bribie. (Photo Darren Jew)

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2 Kommentare

Unknown member
10. März 2023

Very nicely done Darren, Terry B and team! I'm sure Terry will be very happy with this result, as chuffed as we 'bird nerds' are about the immature Beach Stone-Curlew's continuing survival success.😍

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Unknown member
10. März 2023
Antwort an

The Kakadu Roost is vital, and this is just one little reason why! Lets make sure its managed well, with its feathered residents and visitors as number one priority!

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