white birds in flight in a blue sky
Bar-tailed Godwits flying over Gulf St Vincent © Chris Purnell/Birdlife Australia

Land and freshwater stories

Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary

Protecting the habitat of extraordinary avian aviators

Lush tropical rainforests or colourful coral reefs are perhaps what immediately comes to mind when imagining the kinds of wild Australian places that offer critical protection for high numbers of species of international significance. And so you might be surprised to discover that a 60 kilometre stretch of Adelaide’s northern coastline with abundant, relatively non-descript estuarine mudflats are in fact critically important habitat for a vast array of Australian birds, many of them annual visitors from as far away as Siberia.

In 2017, thanks to the generous support of private donors, The Nature Conservancy Australia helped secure the protection of 85 hectares of coastal habitat encompassing low dune and coastal shrubland for inclusion within South Australia’s newest national park – the globally important Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park—Winaityinaiyti Pangkara.

shows off its bright colors
An elegant parrot shows off its bright colors © Shelley Pearson

Bird watching for migratory birds

The bird sanctuary is a critical part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, one of the world’s three great migratory bird flight paths. The addition of the extra habitat to the park provides even greater protection for migratory shorebirds and water birds in South Australia and strengthens the conservation effort across the global flyway.

With at least 52 shorebird species recorded, including 37 migratory summer visitors, the bird sanctuary is important on a global scale. In fact, around 15,000 shorebirds gather here for up to six months each year before their return journey to East Asian breeding grounds in places like China and Siberia. This includes incredible avian aviators like the Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit and Great Knot.

The bird sanctuary also provides habitat for other significant Australian birds like the Elegant Parrot and Gulf St Vincent Slender-billed Thornbill.

Awesome avian aviators

Many of the shorebirds using the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary travel extraordinary distances each year along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Healthy habitats along the flyway are important for allowing birds travelling north or south to find food and build the energy to continue their flights.

a wetland with a city skyline in the distance
Mai Po Wetlands in Hong Kong © Tony Jupp/TNC

The Mai Po Nature Reserve on the northern edge of Hong Kong, on the border with the Chinese city of Shenzhen is one such series of wetlands. Birds travelling north from Australia stop off here to rest and feed before continuing further north to their breeding grounds.

The Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary is a vital southern terminus in the annual travel plans of tens of thousands of these super resilient birds.

You too can help us protect important wildlife habitats like the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary.