Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed marine
Listed migratory - Bonn, CAMBA, JAMBA, ROKAMBA
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Background Paper to the Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2005c) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Policy Statements and Guidelines Marine bioregional plan for the North-west Marine Region (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2012y) [Admin Guideline].
Draft Significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebirds Draft EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.21 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009aj) [Admin Guideline].
Draft background paper to EPBC Act policy statement 3.21 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009bc) [Admin Guideline].
Shorebirds - A Vulnerability Assessment for the Great Barrier Reef (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), 2011i) [Admin Guideline].
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument].
Declaration under section 248 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of Marine Species (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000c) [Legislative Instrument].
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - Listed Migratory Species - Approval of an International Agreement (Commonwealth of Australia, 2007h) [Legislative Instrument].
State Government
    Documents and Websites
QLD:Shorebirds (Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP), 2013bi) [Internet].
State Listing Status
SA: Listed as Rare (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): Rare species: June 2011 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Least Concern (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
VIC: Listed as Vulnerable (Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria: 2013 list)
Scientific name Numenius phaeopus [849]
Family Scolopacidae:Charadriiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Linnaeus,1758)
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Numenius phaeopus

Common name: Whimbrel

Other names: the Eurasian, Asiatic, Siberian, Eastern, American and Australian Whimbrel; Jack Titterel; Hudsonian or Little Curlew, Mayfowl, Shipmate and Medium Curlew (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Only one subspecies of Numenius phaeopus occurs widely in Australia (N.p.variegatus) with only one record of N.p.hudsonicus in Darwin, Northern Territory (Higgins & Davies 1996).

The Whimbrel is a medium sized curlew, with a length of around 40–45 cm, weight of approximately 350 g and wingspan of 76–89 cm (Higgins & Davies 1996).

The Whimbrel is dark brown on the upper half of its body, varyingly spotted with pale fringes. The underside is predominately white with dark coarse brown streaks. Its legs are dull bluish-grey in colour, sometimes with a tinge of green (Higgins & Davies 1996). Adult Whimbrels have a strongly patterned head with a dark brown crown and eye-stripe (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Whimbrels exhibit no seasonal variation; however, juveniles and immatures are separable at close range. Of the two subspecies commonly occurring in the Southern Hemisphere, Numenius phaeopus variegates is the only one occurring in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (Higgins & Davies 1996).

The Whimbrel is a regular migrant to Australia and New Zealand, with a primarily coastal distribution. There are also scattered inland records of Whimbrels in all regions. It is found in all states but is more common in the north.

It is common and widespread from Carnarvon to the north-east Kimberley Division, Western Australia. It is occasionally seen on the south coast of Western Australia and has occasionally been recorded in south-west Western Australia and further north to Shark Bay.

It has been found around the coasts of the Top End, where it sometimes follows rivers inland.

It is found along almost the entire coast of Queensland and NSW and regularly at some places in Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia.

In Victoria it is commonly found at Corner Inlet, Westernport and Port Phillip Bays.

In Tasmania it is located around the estuary of the Tamar River at George Town, and at Sorell, Marion Bay and Cape Portland.

In South Australia it is found between the mouth of the Murray River, Kangaroo Island, Gulf St Vincent, and at the Price and St Kilda Saltfields.

There are scattered records elsewhere. The Whimbrel is a regular visitor to Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island, Cocos-Keeling Island, and Christmas Island. It has also been recorded on the Kermadec Islands, Chatham Islands, Prince Edward Islands, Iles Crozet, and Ile de la Possession (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Australian population
Australian sites of international importance and their populations include (Bamford et al. 2008):

Site Max count
Shoalwater Bay and Broad Sound, Queensland 7124
south-east Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland 3414
Great Sandy Strait, Queensland 3128
Chambers Bay, Northern Territory 1500
Moreton Bay, Queensland 1440
Cairns Foreshore, Queensland 1027
Roebuck Bay, Western Australia 1020

Non-breeding distribution
Outside of Australia, the Whimbrel is found on the Pacific coasts of central California, United States, and south through Central America, to south-west Tierra del Fuego and the Galapagos Islands. It is found on the Atlantic coasts from South Carolina, through to the Gulf of Mexico, out to the Caribbean islands, and through to south Brazil and Uruguay. In Africa, the Whimbrel has been recorded around the coast from Morocco to South Africa and from the north to south-west of the Red Sea. It has also been reported in Madagascar. In Asia, the Whimbrel is scattered along the east coast of the Red Sea and elsewhere along coasts of the Arabian Peninsular. It is also distributed around the coasts of the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea and the west coasts of Indian subcontinent. It is widespread along coastal Indomalaya south to the Irrawaddy River. The Whimbrel is widespread throughout south-east Asia, Indochina, the Philippines, south China, and Taiwan. It is also found in the New Guinea region, including the Bismarck Archipelago, Bougainville and the Solomon Islands. It is also found throughout Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Breeding distribution
The Whimbrel breeds in north and west Alaska. Common breeding grounds include Norton Sound to north Yukon and north-west Mackenzie. In also breeds from south-west Yukon to central Alaska, the Alaska Range, and around the west Hudson Bay between south-east Keewatin and north-west James Bay. The Whimbrel is also known to breed in Iceland. The Whimbrel also breeds in Eurasia with a few reported in north Scotland and nearby islands. It also breeds from Scandinavia and further west to the Kola Peninsula. In Russia its breeding boundaries include a southern boundary from near the Dvina River to north Urals and south-east to the confluence of the Ob and Irtysh Rivers. The northern boundary extends to about the Arctic Circle. It also breeds from the east to just west of the Ob River. Scattered breeding also occurs in Estonia; between the Ural River, Ural Mountains and Kuybyshev on the Volga River. It also breeds around the middle stretches of the Yenisey River, around the headwaters of the Maymecha River, at the Yana River near at the Arctic Circle and around the lower reaches of the Kolyma River; and in Anadyrland (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Factors affecting distribution
The Whimbrel's distribution may be affected by major weather events. One month after a cyclone the number of Whimbrels in Roebuck Bay, Western Australia, was a quarter of that recorded previously. This indicates that the cyclone may have opened up feeding areas in mangroves where birds were less likely to be counted (Jessop & Collins 2000).

The Whimbrel has been reasonably well surveyed. A review by Bamford and colleagues (2008) examines all shorebirds that utilize the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. The review provides a comprehensive summary of the population dynamics of the Whimbrel. Notable contributions to the review include; Barter and Harris (2002), Lane (1987), Skewes (2003), and Watkins (1993).

According to Delany and Scott (2002), the global population of the Whimbrel was estimated between 1 007 000 and 2 132 000. An estimated 100 000 Whimbrels use the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. The estimated population is far greater than count data suggesting that there are many more Whimbrels in south-east Asia than have been recorded.

The Whimbrel occurs in many smaller populations. During the non-breeding season six important sites have been identified in Australia. Important sites are also located in China, Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia. During migration, important sites are concentrated in Russia, South Korea, Japan and China. Note that an important site is calculated using the 1% criterion (i.e. a site is considered important if it is occupied by more then 1% of the bird's total population). Important international sites in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway include (Bamford et al. 2008):

Site Country Max count Site Country Max count
Moroshechnaya River Estuary Russia 20 000 Daijugarami Japan 607
Kronotsky Nature Reserve Russia 6000 Moriyamashi-kogan Japan 572
Schastiya Bay Russia 4325 Suncheon Bay South Korea 528
Iioka Kaigan Japan 4041 Fujimae Higata Japan 515
Kamisu-Chou Takahama Japan 3340 Kanghwa Island South Korea 485
Huang He National Nature Reserve China 2626 Oono-gawa, Suna-gawa Kakou Japan 470
Vakhil River Mouth Russia 2500 Isahaya Higata Japan 468
Kapar Power Station Malaysia 1500 Kum Estuary South Korea 452
Wasur National Park Indonesia 1400 Seosan South Korea 432
Asan Bay South Korea 1310 Cheonsu Bay South Korea 432
Shuangtaizihekou National Nature Reserve China 1306 Kahokugata Japan 426
Kashima Shingomori Japan 1280 Shio-kawa Higata Japan 415
Kasai Kaihinkouen Japan 1220 Namhae South Korea 407
Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve China 1200 Kamo-gawa Kakou Japan 371
Dongjin Estuary South Korea 1070 Yahagi-gawa Kakou Japan 354
Irrawaddy Delta Malaysia 1025 Shira-kawa Kakou Japan 353
Banyuasin Delta Indonesia 1000 Atago-gawa, Kushida-gawa Japan 352
Komuke-ko Japan 970 Hikata Hachimangoku Japan 326
Tochigi-ken Nanbu, Suiden-chitai Japan 928 Han River South Korea 320
Yatsu Higata Japan 894 Lososei Bay Russia 300
Usa Kaigan Japan 839 Nagasaki Kaigan Japan 300
Yong Jong Island South Korea 825 Shi Jiu Tuo/Daqing He China 300
Daursky Nature Reserve Russia 800 Yalu Jiang National Nature Reserve China 286
Jiu Duan Sha N. N. Reserve China 800 Babushkina Bay Russia 278
Namyang Bay South Korea 740 South Bo Hai Wan China 278
Yonaha-wan Japan 657 Kuma-gawa Kakou Japan 270
Sone Higata Japan 625 Chidorihama Kiya-gawa Kakou Japan 255
Mankyung Estuary South Korea 620 Mukawa Kakou Japan 250

The Whimbrel is not globally threatened, however, numbers apparently declined by 61% on Atlantic staging sites between 1972 and 1983 (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Summer population counts in Australia from 1986–91 were 801, 1145, 636, 832, 785, 352 and suggest a decline (Higgins & Davies 1996). The Victorian population (while still very small) may have increased from the 1980s to the 1990s with new estimate of 102, an increase on the old estimate of 42 birds (Wilson 2001a). In Australia as a whole, the species showed significant regional variation but no overall change between Birds Australia Atlases (Barrett et al. 2002).

Ramsar wetlands used by the Whimbrel include; Shoalwater Bay, Queensland, the Great Sandy Strait and Roebuck Bay, Western Australia.

Typical habitat
The Whimbrel is often found on the intertidal mudflats of sheltered coasts. It is also found in harbours, lagoons, estuaries and river deltas, often those with mangroves, but also open, unvegetated mudflats. It is occasionally found on sandy or rocky beaches, on coral or rocky islets, or on intertidal reefs and platforms. It has been infrequently recorded using saline or brackish lakes near coastal areas. It also used saltflats with saltmarsh, or saline grasslands with standing water left after high spring-tides, and in similar habitats in sewage farms and saltfields (Higgins & Davies 1996). There are a small number of inland records from saline lakes and canegrass swamps (Jarman 1978). It has also been recorded in coastal dunes and on a football field (Smith & Chafer 1987).

Habitat for feeding
The Whimbrel generally forages on intertidal mudflats, along the muddy banks of estuaries and in coastal lagoons, either in open unvegetated areas or among mangroves. They sometimes forage on sandy beaches or among rocks. It has occasionally been sighted feeding on exposed coral or rocky reefs and rock platforms. It is known to probe holes and crevices among rubble and on reef flats, but not on reef crests (Higgins & Davies 1996). It was once recorded feeding on a grassy football field (Smith & Chafer 1987). At Rhyll Inlet, Victoria, the birds preferred mudflats with a 10–50% cover of Zostera; followed by areas of sand, mud bare mudflats, and rock platforms (Dann 1993).

Habitat for roosting
The Whimbrel is one of a small group of shorebird species that regularly roost in mangroves and other structures flooded at high tide. They often roost in the branches of mangroves around mudflats and in estuaries and occasionally in tall coastal trees. They have also been observed to roost on the ground (sometimes under mangroves or in shallow water), on muddy, sandy or rocky beaches; rocky islets and coral cays (Higgins & Davies 1996). They were once recorded perched on upright stakes attached to oyster racks (Forest 1982). On Rottnest Island, they have been seen perched on cliff-tops at high tide (Storr 1964). Whimbrels were also recorded roosting at high tide on a claypan 2 km inland of Roebuck Bay, Western Australia (Collins et al. 2001). In some conditions, waders 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 1999b).

Habitat needed for refuge
During a period of cyclonic activity waders moved to sheltered areas to avoid high winds and heavy rain, and few casualties were observed (Jessop & Collins 2000).

The Whimbrel does not breed in Australia (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Micro-habitat needed for breeding
The Whimbrel nests in the branches of mangroves, around mudflats and in estuaries. They also nest in a depression on the ground filled with fragments of vegetation, usually in an exposed location (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Breeding behaviours that may make the species vulnerable
The Whimbrel sometimes nests on the ground and is therefore vulnerable to predation (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Breeding season
Breeding occurs in the Northern Hemisphere summer, with laying occurring from May to mid-June (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Fecundity, lifespan, generation interval
The Whimbrel lays two to five (usually four) eggs and incubates for 22–28 days. The nestling period is 35–40 days. Whimbrels may breed from two years of age and the annual mortality may be as high as 31% (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Summary of food items
In non-breeding areas the Whimbrel is mainly carnivorous, taking annelids, crustaceans (including crabs and shrimps), and, rarely, vertebrates (e.g. small fish, Little Tern, Sterna albifrons, nestlings). Outside Australia, it is also known to take berries, molluscs, arachnids, insects and reptiles (Higgins & Davies 1996). In Roebuck Bay, Western Australia, Whimbrels feed mainly on large crabs, but might also eat mantis shrimps and mudskippers (Rogers 1999a).

Feeding behaviours that may make the species vulnerable
The Whimbrel is diurnal and nocturnal and uses both visual and non-visual cues to locate prey (Higgins & Davies 1996). Due to its choice of prey and relatively small size, the Whimbrel is subject to high levels of kleptoparasitism by Gull-billed Terns in Roebuck Bay (Rogers 1999a). Grey Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola) have also been recorded stealing food from Whimbrels (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Migration patterns
The Whimbrel is migratory and moves south from breeding grounds for the Northern Hemisphere winter. The subspecies, Numenius phaeopus variegatus, breeds in east Siberia and migrates to India through to Melanesia, Micronesia, Australia and New Zealand. During migration the Whimbrel occurs widely through inland regions on its route (Hayman et al. 1986).

Departure from breeding grounds
The Whimbrel begins to leave the breeding grounds in July (Hayman et al. 1986). The subspecies N.p. variegatus moves down the coast of east Asia. It is a passage migrant in countries including Korea and Japan from August to October. It is common along the coast of China from late July to September or October. The Whimbrel has been recorded on passage through Hong Kong from August 1 to November 20 and in Thailand until mid-December. It is also known to move through Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines, Borneo, Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia, New Guinea and Wallacea (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Within Australia, Whimbrels move south through Roebuck Bay, Western Australia, from August and September. (Lane 1987). They arrive on the north and north-east coasts from August-October (Alcorn 1988). The bird is also a common passage migrant through the Torres Strait (Draffan et al. 1983). They move south along the east coast. Influxes (which are mostly temporary) occur at sites along the east coast during migration in August (north of 20° S), and in September-October (south of 20° S) (Alcorn 1988; Lane 1987). Inland records in spring and autumn suggest some move overland on migration (Blakers et al. 1984). The Whimbrel appears to disperse widely along the coast in the non-breeding period (Alcorn 1988; Lane 1987).

Return to breeding grounds
Within Australia, Whimbrels begin migrating from February onwards (Higgins & Davies 1996). Influxes occur at most sites in Queensland from early March to early April. The birds leave the north and north-east coasts by late April (Alcorn 1988). Similarly, most Whimbrels leave Roebuck Bay, Western Australia, from mid-to late April, although they are much less numerous than on south migration (Lane & Jessop 1985a). There have been several sightings of migrating flocks flying north-west and west-northwest from the region around Broome, Western Australia (Lane & Jessop 1985b). They have been recorded on migration in various regions from March to May or early June, passing through countries such as Borneo, Malaysia, China, Korea, Japan and Kamchatka (Higgins & Davies 1996). The Yellow Sea is considered to support 50% of the Flyway population during northward migration. In China numbers peak in late April to mid May while maximum numbers occur in South Korea in the first half of May (Barter 2002). Some birds remain in non-breeding areas all year (Hayman et al. 1986). In east Australia, greater proportions spend winter at favoured sites north of 27° S (Alcorn 1988; Blakers et al. 1984). Numbers at monitored sites remain stable during winter suggesting little movement during this period (Alcorn 1988).

Reasons for migration
The southward migration is to escape severe winter conditions and consequent high energy demand and low prey availability. Northward migration is to the breeding grounds where food is temporarily superabundant during the Northern Hemisphere summer.

Descriptions of migratory pathways and important sites
Internationally important numbers of Whimbrels have been recorded during northward migration in China (Huang He National Nature Reserve, Shuangtaizihekou National Nature Reserve, Chongming Dao Provincial Nature Reserve, Jiu Duan Sha) and in South Korea (Asan Man, Dongjin Gang Hagu, Yeong Jong Do, Namyang Man, Mangyeung Gang Hagu) (Barter 2002).

Compared to the Little Curlew (Numenius minutus) the Whimbrel is much larger and bulkier with a longer, thicker, more decurved bill. It is also much smaller than the Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) with a much shorter bill and slightly shorter legs (Higgins & Davies 1996).

The Whimbrel exhibits no seasonal variation; hence adults have only one plumage. Juveniles, however, can be distinguished from adults.

Adult Whimbrels have a strongly patterned head with a dark brown crown and eye-stripe. In contract juveniles have a pale crown-stripe which is often less distinct. The mantles, scapulars, tertials and upperwings on adults are dark brown, speckled with pale brown streaks. Juveniles, however, have black mantles, scapulars, tertials and upperwings with clear, larger white spots. In juveniles the upperparts appear darker black and more pale spotted with dense whitish spotting on wing coverts. In adults the outer primaries are blackish-brown with the greater primary coverts slightly paler then the rest of the upperparts with pale whitish streaks (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Global threats
There are a number of threats that affect migratory shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. The greatest threat is indirect and direct habitat loss (Melville 1997). Staging areas used during migration through eastern Asia are being lost and degraded by activities which are reclaiming the mudflats for development or developing them for aquaculture (Barter 2002, 2005c; Ge et al. 2007; Round 2006). This is especially evident in the Yellow Sea, where at least 40% of intertidal areas have been reclaimed. This process is continuing at a rapid rate and may accelerate in the near future (Barter 2002, 2005c). For example, in South Korea, the Mangyeung and Dongjin River estuaries each supported 5% of the combined estimated Flyway populations (and are the most important sites for this species on both northern and southern migration) but they are currently being reclaimed as part of the Saemangeum Reclamation Project (Barter 2002, 2005c). The 33 km sea-wall across these two estuaries was completed in April 2006, resulting in significant change in the 40 100 ha area.

Reclamation is also a threat in other areas of the Flyway, such as in Malaysia (Wei et al. 2006). In addition, water regulation and diversion infrastructure in the major tributaries have resulted in the reduction of water and sediment flows (Barter 2002; Barter et al. 1998).

Migratory shorebirds are also adversely affected by pollution, both on passage and in non-breeding areas (Harding et al. 2007; Melville 1997; Round 2006; Wei et al. 2006). Disturbance from human activities, including recreation, shellfish harvesting, fishing and aquaculture is likely to increase significantly in the future (Barter et al. 2005; Davidson & Rothwell 1993).

It is predicted that the rate of decrease in the intertidal area in the Yellow Sea will accelerate (Barter 2002). In addition, intensive oil exploration and extraction, and reduction in river flows due to upstream water diversion, are other potentially significant threats in parts of China where this species is present in internationally significant numbers (Barter 2005c; Barter et al. 1998).

Global warming and associated changes in sea level are likely to have a long-term impact on the breeding, staging and non-breeding grounds of migratory waders (Harding et al. 2007).

Hunting is still a very serious problem for waders in China, and this species is sometimes caught (Ming et al. 1998).

Within Australia, there are a number of threats common to most migratory shorebirds, including the Whimbrel.

Habitat loss
The loss of important habitat reduces the availability of foraging and roosting sites. This affects the ability of the birds to build up the energy stores required for successful migration and breeding. Some sites are important all year round for juveniles who may stay in Australia throughout the breeding season until they reach maturity. A variety of activities may cause habitat loss. These include direct losses through land clearing, inundation, infilling or draining. Indirect loss may occur due to changes in water quality, hydrology or structural changes near roosting sites (DEWHA 2009aj).

Habitat degradation
As most migratory shorebirds have specialised feeding techniques, they are particularly susceptible to slight changes in prey sources and foraging environments. Activities that cause habitat degradation include (but are not restricted to): (1) loss of marine or estuarine vegetation, which is likely to alter the dynamic equilibrium of sediment banks and mudflats; (2) invasion of intertidal mudflats by weeds such as cord grass; (3) water pollution and changes to the water regime; (4) changes to the hydrological regime and (5) exposure of acid sulphate soils, hence changing the chemical balance at the site (DEWHA 2009aj).

Disturbance can result from residential and recreational activities including; fishing, power boating, four wheel driving, walking dogs, noise and night lighting. While some disturbances may have only a low impact it is important to consider the combined effect of disturbances with other threats. Roosting and foraging birds are sensitive to discrete, unpredictable disturbances such as loud noises (i.e. construction sites) and approaching objects (i.e. boats). Sustained disturbances can prevent shorebirds from using parts of the habitat (DEWHA 2009aj).

Direct mortality
Direct mortality is a result of human activities around the migration pathways of shorebirds and at roosting and foraging sites. Examples include the construction of wind farms in migration or movement pathways, bird strike due to aircraft, hunting, chemical and oil spills (DEWHA 2009aj).

Governments and conservation groups have undertaken a wide range of activities relating to migratory shorebird conservation (AGDEH 2005c) both in Australia and in cooperation with other countries associated with the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

The Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (AGDEH 2006f) outlines national activities to support Flyway shorebird conservation initiatives and provides a strategic framework to ensure these activities and future research and management actions are integrated and remain focused on the long-term survival of migratory shorebird populations and their habitats.

Between 1996–97, the Australian Government invested approximately $5 000 000 of Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) funding in projects contributing to migratory shorebird conservation (DEWHA 2007e). This funding was distributed across a range of important projects, including the implementation of a nationally coordinated monitoring programme that will produce robust, long-term population data able to support the conservation and effective management of shorebirds and their habitat; migration studies using colour bands and leg flags; and development of a shorebird conservation toolkit to assist users to develop and implement shorebird conservation projects.

Birds Australia is currently co-ordinating the Shorebirds 2020 project, which aims to monitor shorebird populations at important sites throughout Australia; and Birdlife International is identifying sites and regions which are important to various species of birds, including shorebirds, and the processes that are affecting them. The aim is to inform decisions on the management of shorebird habitat. It may be possible to rehabilitate some degraded wetlands or to create artificial wader feeding or roosting sites to replace those destroyed by development, such as by creating artificial sandflats and sand islands from dredge spoil and by building breakwaters (Dening 2005; Straw 1992a, 1999).

The Significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebirds Draft EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.21 (DEWHA 2009aj) provides guidelines for determining the impacts of proposed actions on migratory shorebirds. The policy statement also provides mitigation strategies to reduce the level and extent of those impacts. The policy aims to promote ecologically sustainable development that allows for the continued ecological function of important habitat for migratory shorebirds. Under the EPBC Act any action that may or will have a significant impact on the important habitats of shorebirds must be referred to the Minister (DEWHA 2009aj).

Australia has played an important role in building international cooperation to conserve migratory birds. In addition to being party to international agreements on migratory species, Australia is also a member of the Partnership for the Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and the Sustainable Use of their Habitats in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (Flyway Partnership), which was launched in Bogor, Indonesia on 6 November 2006. Prior to this agreement, Australia was party to the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy and the Action Plan for the Conservation of Migratory Shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and the East Asian-Australasian Shorebird Site Network.

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway Site Network, which is part of the broader Flyway Partnership, promotes the identification and protection of key sites for migratory shorebirds. Australia has 17 sites in the network (Partnership EAAF 2008):

  • Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory (1 375 940 ha)
  • Parry Lagoons, Western Australia (36 111 ha)
  • Thomsons Lake, Western Australia (213 ha)
  • Moreton Bay, Queensland (113 314 ha)
  • Hunter Estuary, NSW (2916 ha)
  • Corner Inlet, Victoria (51 500 ha)
  • The Coorong, Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert, South Australia (140 500 ha)
  • Orielton Lagoon, Tasmania (2920 ha)
  • Logan Lagoon, Tasmania (2320 ha)
  • Western Port, Victoria (59 297 ha)
  • Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria (16 540 ha)
  • Shallow Inlet Marine and Coastal Park, Victoria
  • Discovery Bay Coastal Park, Victoria
  • Bowling Green Bay, Queensland
  • Shoalwater Bay, Queensland
  • Great Sandy Strait, Queensland
  • Currawinya National Park, Queensland

There has been no mitigation measures developed specifically for this species. However the recent Significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebirds Draft EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.21 (DEWHA 2009aj) provides guidelines for mitigation strategies for migratory shorebirds in general.

Marine bioregional plans have been developed for four of Australia's marine regions - South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East. Marine Bioregional Plans will help improve the way decisions are made under the EPBC Act, particularly in relation to the protection of marine biodiversity and the sustainable use of our oceans and their resources by our marine-based industries. Marine Bioregional Plans improve our understanding of Australia's oceans by presenting a consolidated picture of the biophysical characteristics and diversity of marine life. They describe the marine environment and conservation values of each marine region, set out broad biodiversity objectives, identify regional priorities and outline strategies and actions to address these priorities. Click here for more information about marine bioregional plans.

The Whimbrel has been identified as a conservation value in the North-west (DSEWPaC 2012y) Marine Region. See Schedule 2 of the North-west Marine Bioregional Plan (DSEWPaC 2012y) for regional advice. Maps of Biologically Important Areas have been developed for Whimbrel in the North-west (DSEWPaC 2012y) Marine Region and may provide additional relevant information. Go to the conservation values atlas to view the locations of these Biologically Important Areas. The "species group report card - seabirds & migratory shorebirds" for the North-west (DSEWPaC 2012y) Marine Region provides additional information.

There have been several studies on the Whimbrel, many referenced in Bamford and colleagues (2008). There is a detailed summary of all that is known of the species in Australasia in Higgins and Davies (1996), and international summaries in Cramp and Simmons (1983) and Wiersma (1996). There are also general discussions and summaries of the ecology, conservation and threats of this species and other shorebirds in Geering and colleagues (2007), Barter (2002) and Watkins (1993).

The Department's Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (AGDEH 2006f) and The Action Plan for Australian Birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000) also contain actions aimed at the conservation of migratory birds within Australia.

The recent Significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebirds Draft EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.21 (DEWHA 2009aj) provides guidelines for determining the impacts of proposed actions on migratory shorebirds. The policy statement also provides mitigation strategies to reduce the level and extent of those impacts.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Biological Resource Use:Hunting and Collecting Terrestrial Animals:Direct exploitation by humans including hunting Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Global warming and associated sea level changes Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Temperature Extremes:climate change Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Energy Production and Mining:Oil and Gas Drilling:Exploration drilling Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Energy Production and Mining:Oil and Gas Drilling:Production of oil and gas resources Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human induced disturbance due to unspecified activities Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Recreational Activities:Disturbance, especially from human recreational activities and development Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Changes to hydrology due to water diversion Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Salinity Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Pollution:Industrial and Military Effluents:Habitat degradation due to industrial discharge Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Pollution:Pollution:Deterioration of water and soil quality (contamination and pollution) Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Pollution:Pollution:Habitat degradation and loss of water quality due to salinity, siltaton, nutrification and/or pollution Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Species Stresses:Species Stresses:unspecified Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Numenius phaeopus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Sat, 20 Sep 2014 01:58:19 +1000.