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Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy

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Areas of Conservation Significance on Cape York Peninsula

Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy
Abrahams, H., Mulvaney, M., Glasco, D., & Bugg, A.
Office of the Co-ordinator General of Queensland
Australian Heritage Commission, March 1995


Areas of Conservation Significance on Cape York Peninsula

11.0 Areas Significant for Maintaining Seabird and Shorebird Populations

Areas of significance for seabirds and shorebirds are considered under sub-criterion A2, significant as breeding and feeding areas, sub-criterion A3, areas of particular species or population richness and in some instances under sub-criterion B1 for rare, endangered or threatened species.

11.1 Seabirds

The importance of the islands of the Great Barrier Reef area, adjoining the CYPLUS study area, was determined by King (1993) on the absolute size of seabird colonies, the relative importance of an island within its local area, and the relative abundance of the species they contain. Additionally the Department of Environment and Heritage Data-base of Seabird records (DEH 1994) within the Northern Great Barrier Reef Region was interrogated to provide information on additional sites of significance.

The northern Great Barrier Reef area contains many islands that support breeding and roosting sea-bird populations. Some of these populations are amongst the largest in Queensland and a few are amongst the largest nationally. The northern Great Barrier Reef area, together with Horn Island, is of international significance for seven shorebird species and of national significance for a further three (Watkins 1993).

Major seabird breeding areas within Queensland have been identified by King (1993) and from the DEH fauna database (DEH 1994). Major seabird breeding islands that occur within or in close vicinity to the CYPLUS study area are detailed below in Table 11.1. Major seabird roosting and feeding sites are given in Table 11.2. Islands of significance to seabirds are shown in Figure 11.1.

Table 11.1 Major Seabird Breeding Sites


       ISLAND                         SIGNIFICANCE 
                  
Cholmondeley Island  The Island supports some of the largest         
                     breeding populations in Queensland of the       
                     Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii), Black-naped    
                     Tern (Sterna sumatrana)  and Lesser Crested     
                     Tern (Sterna bengalensis).                      

Wallace Islet        The Islet supports the largest known breeding   
                     populations in Australia of the Roseate Tern    
                     and one of the largest breeding populations in  
                     Queensland of the Crested Tern (Sterna          
bergii).                                        

Saunders Island      The Island supports a regionally large          
                     breeding population of the Crested Tern.        

Magra Island         The Island supports a regionally large          
                     breeding population of the Roseate Tern.        

North Bird Island    The Island supports one of the largest          
                     breeding and roosting populations of the Black  
                     Noddy (Anous minutus)  in Queensland.           

Piper Group          The Group supports one of the largest breeding  
                     and roosting populations of the Black Noddy in  
                     Queensland.                                     


Chapman Island       The Island supports one of the largest          
                     breeding and roosting populations of the Black  
                     Noddy in Queensland, and one of the largest     
                     breeding colonies of the Crested Tern.          

Sherrard Island      The Island supports regionally significant      
                     breeding populations of the Bridled Tern        
                     (Sterna anaethetus), Lesser Crested Tern and    
                     Black Noddy.                                    

Fife Island          The Island supports regionally significant      
                     breeding populations of the Bridled Tern and    
                     Crested Tern and large roosting populations of  
                     the Common Noddy (Anous stolidus) and Black     
                     Noddy.                                          

Pelican Island       The Island supports the largest known breeding  
                     colony in Australia of the Lesser Crested       
                     Tern, and one of the largest breeding           
                     populations of the Bridled Tern in Queensland.  
                     The Island is also one of the few regional      
                     breeding sites of the Australian Pelican        
                     (Pelecanus conspicillatus).  In November 1993,  
                     180 non-breeding adults of the Eastern          
                     Curlew(Numenius madagascariensis) were          
                     recorded on the Island. The Eastern Curlew is   
                     considered to be a rare species in Queensland.  

Stainer Island       The Island supports some of the largest         
                     breeding populations of the Lesser Crested      
                     Tern in Queensland and is one of the few        
                     regional breeding sites of the Australian       
                     Pelican.                                        

Stapleton Islet      The Islet supports one of the largest breeding  
                     populations of the Brown Booby(Sula             
                    leucogaster)  and the Common Noddy in           
                     Queensland and is one of the few regional       
                     breeding sites of the Australian Pelican. The   
                     Islet also supports large roosting populations  
                     of the Sooty Tern (Sterna fuscata), Bridled     
                     Tern, Crested Tern, and Black Noddy.            

Combe Islet          The Islet supports regionally significant       
                     breeding populations of the Wedge-tailed        
                     Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus), and Sooty      
                     Tern. It also supports large roosting           
                     populations of the Black Noddy and Common       
                     Noddy.                                          

Eagle Islet          The Islet supports some of the largest          
                     breeding populations of the Crested Tern and    
                     Lesser Crested Tern in Queensland.              

Rocky Islets         The Islets supports one of the largest          
                     breeding populations of the Bridled Tern in     
                     Queensland. It also supports large roosting     
                     populations of the Common Noddy, Black Noddy    
                     and Sooty Tern.                                 

Table 11.2 Further Significant Seabird Roosting and Feeding Sites
Tern Island          Tern Island supports a regionally large         
                     roosting population of the Bridled Tern.        

Douglas Island       The Island supports a regionally large          
                     roosting population of the Black Noddy. The     
                     Island is a minor seabird breeding site.        

Jardine Islet        The Islet supports a regionally large roosting  
                     population of the Lesser Crested Tern. The      
                     Islet is a minor seabird breeding locality.     

Bushy Islet          Bushy Islet supports a regionally large         
                     roosting population of the Roseate Tern.        

Three Islands        The Islands support a regionally large          
(Island A)           roosting population of the Bridled Tern.        

Sinclair Island      In November 1993, 100 non-breeding adults of    
                     the nationally vulnerable Little Tern (Sterna   
                     albifrons)  were recorded at Sinclair Island.   

Crab Island          There is a large seasonal feeding aggregation   
                     of the Rufous Night Heron (Nycticorax           
                     caledonicus), which feeds on the hatchlings of  
                     the Flatback Turtle. There is a peak of         
                     hatching mid-year.                              

11.2 Minor Sea Bird Breeding Areas

In addition to those islands mentioned above, the following are of minor or local significance as seabird breeding areas: Little Boydong Cay; Sunday Island; Kay Island; Pippon Island; Ingram/Beenley Island; and the Howick Group.

In addition to the locations given above, significant mainland roosting and breeding locations of the nationally Endangered Little Tern are given in Figure 17.5. There is insufficient information to identify any other significant mainland sea-bird roosting or breeding sites.

11.3 Shore Birds

The coastline of Cape York Peninsula is important for a number of shorebird species as resting or feeding points on their migration, or for nesting sites. Many of these species or their habitat are included in the China Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA) or the Japan Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA). In this section significant habitat areas for shore birds are identified.

Watkins (1993) has identified areas of significance for shorebirds using established criteria. Areas of international significance either support 20,000 or more shore birds or support 1% or more of the East Asian - Australian Flyway population. Areas of national significance are those where 10,000 or more birds have been recorded or where 1% or more of the individuals of the Australian population of a species or sub-species have been recorded.

Significant species and places of importance for their maintenance are outlined below and the locations are included on the rare and threatened species map Figure 17.3 following.

11.3.1 Beach Stone-curlew (Burhinus giganteus).

The near shore islands of the Northern Great Barrier Reef, the northern and eastern shores of Cape York Peninsula, together with the shores of the Torres Strait Islands are an area of international significance for the Beach Stone-curlew (Burhinus giganteus), as these areas support over 5% of estimated East Asian-Australian population. It is the only area in Australia that is recognised as being significant for this species. The species occurs singly or in small groups along the coastline and is likely to be more common on off-shore islands, and those parts of the mainland little disturbed by humans, pigs or cats (Watkins 1993, Driscoll 1994b).

11.3.2 Mongolian Plover (Charadrius mongolus) .

The intertidal flats of the islands of the Northern Great Barrier Reef, particularly those of Boydong, MacArthur, Fife, Hannah, Pelican, and Stainer Islands, are an internationally significant habitat of the Mongolian Plover (Charadrius mongolus) supporting nearly 10% of the East Asian - Australian flyway population. The area is the second most important habitat of this species in Australia after the Gulf of Carpentaria. The flats around Horn Island are also of international significance supporting an additional 2.5% of the East Asian - Australian flyway population of this species (Watkins 1993, DEH 1994). The Mongolian Plover is a migratory species that visits Australia and breeds in eastern Siberia. In Australia it lives on muddy and sandy shores usually in isolated flocks of up to 100 birds.

11.3.3 Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva).

Horn Island is also of national significance as a habitat of the Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva), with greater than 1% of the Australian population being recorded there at the one time (Watkins 1993). They occur in their largest numbers in north-eastern Australia. Following breeding in Alaska, they arrive in Australia from August to October and begin to depart again in February.

11.3.4 Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres).

The intertidal flats of the islands of the Northern Great Barrier Reef area, particularly those of Boydong, Hannibal (East), Macarthur, Morris, Pelican, and Stainer Islands and Pethebridge Islet (East) are an internationally significant habitat for the Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) supporting nearly 3% of the East Asian - Australian flyway population. The area is the third most important habitat of this species in Australia after Roebuck Bay (Western Australia) and King Island (Bass Strait) (Watkins 1993, DEH 1994). The Turnstone is a summer visitor to Australia although a proportion stays in Australia during winter (Blakers et al 1984). The Turnstone inhabits shores where stones or stony pavements are exposed and sandier shores where seaweed has accumulated (Blakers et al 1984).

11.3.5 Grey-tailed Tattler (Tringa brevips).

The intertidal flats of the islands of the Northern Great Barrier Reef area, particularly those of Halfway Islet, Sinclair Islet, Boydong Island, Bushey Islets, MacArthur Islands, Morris Island, and Pelican Island are an internationally significant habitat of the Grey-tailed Tattler (Tringa brevips) supporting nearly 4% of the East Asian - Australian Flyway population. (Watkins 1993, DEH 1994). The Tattler, often associated with mangrove shores, occupies coastal mudflats and reefs and only rarely sandy shores (Blakers et al 1984).

11.3.6 Pied Oystercatcher(Haematopus longiropstris) and Sooty Oystercatcher (H. fuliginosus).

The rocky and sandy shores of the northern Great Barrier Reef area and the adjoining coastline of Cape York Peninsula support over 1% of the total estimated global populations of both the Pied (Haematopus longiropstris) and Sooty (H. fuliginosus) Oystercatchers. A northern sub-species of the Sooty Oystercatcher Haematopus fuliginosus opthalmicus is estimated to have a total population of only 1000 individuals, with the areas mentioned above being a particularly important habitat of this sub-species. The Pied favours the sandy beaches and the Sooty favours rocky coasts. The Pied particularly has had it distribution affected by disturbance from people on popular beaches (Blakers et al 1984).

11.3.7 Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) .

The northern Great Barrier Reef area, particularly Macarthur Islands, Morris Island and Pelican Island, is a nationally significant habitat of the Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) (Watkins 1993, DEH 1994). The Whimbrel is scarce in southern Australia, and in Queensland is seen in flocks of up to 50. The Whimbrel forages on tidal mudflats and roosts on rocky islets and coral cays (Blakers et al 1984).

11.3.8 Torresian Imperial Pigeon (Ducula spilorrhoa).

The Torresian Imperial Pigeon has been recorded as nesting on 95 islands, but only six colonies exceed 10,000 pairs. Major nesting colonies within the CYPLUS study area occur at:

Hannibal East Island + Hannibal West Island,
Night Island (the largest colony with over 60,000 birds),
Hay Island, and
Hannah Island.

The Torresian Imperial Pigeon (Ducula spilorrhoa), also known as the Torres Strait or Nutmeg Pigeon, is largely a migratory bird found in New Guinea, Indonesia and northern Australia. It reaches its greatest abundance in Australia in the central and northern Great Barrier Reef region, where tens of thousands of birds arrive from New Guinea in July or August and return in about February or March. The Torresian Imperial Pigeon breeds in Australia and its arrival coincides with the ripening of rainforest fruits on which it feeds. In Queensland, birds nest in large colonies on off-shore islands and fly each day to rainforest on the mainland to feed. Although a common species, the nesting behaviour of the pigeon makes it vulnerable to human disturbance. Visitors, clearance activity and shooters on nesting islands appear to have caused a marked decline in the southern colonies (some of which are beginning to recover) (Blakers et al 1984, Winter 1994). Nevertheless the most important nesting sites of the Torresian Imperial Pigeon are on the relatively remote islands off the east coast of the CYPLUS study area.