Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Birds of Yandina Creek Wetland

Latham's Snipe
 I have pulled together a pictorial account of the birds of Yandina Creek Wetland on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.A total of 151 species had been record at the site as of August 2017.

Yandina Creek Wetland before being drained
The large number of people who have followed this issue will be aware that the 200ha site was drained in July 2015 when broken floodgates on the former sugar cane land were repaired. At the time, the area was a thriving wetland teeming with waterbirds, including rare and endangered species and large numbers of migratory shorebirds.

Lewin's Rail
Governments stood by and did nothing to prevent the destruction of the wetland because in their view, it had been artificially created and was therefore not worthy of protection. The land was sold by its farmer-owners in the mid-2000s. The new property developer owners, hopeful that one day the area would be rezoned from rural, failed to maintain floodgates which had prevented inundation of tidal water from the Maroochy River.
Spotless Crake
With the floodgates in disrepair, a vibrant wetland was created as the fallow land was inundated twice daily at high tide. The newly created habitat was not unlike what the area had been in its natural state, before being developed for cane farms in the 1920s.

Intermediate Egret
Following community protests and adverse media coverage, some floodgates were reopened in September 2015 when the Queensland Government took action over the alleged destruction of marine vegetation resulting from the draining. However, the floodgates were again shut - and the wetland was drained for the second time - in January 2016 after government authorities concluded they had no power to prevent plans by the property developer owners to lease the land back to its original farmer owners so sugar cane could again be grown. (This move, by technically continuing an existing land use, was intended to bypass state and federal environmental regulations.)

Australasian Darter
Over the past 12 months, however, there has been little indication that the cane farms will be re-established. It is timely to recall the wealth of birdlife that frequented the site and hopefully will return to it in due course; more will be said about this in the near future.

One of the avian strengths of the Yandina Creek Wetland was its attraction to migratory shorebirds, which are declining rapidly in numbers as their feeding grounds along the flyway between Australia and north-east Asia are developed.

Pectoral Sandpiper
According to Commonwealth guidelines, the wetland was internationally significant because it provided refuge for a significant proportion (between 120 and 150 birds) of the Australian migratory population of Latham's Snipe. The presence of this one species should have been sufficient to prompt the Australian Government to take action to protect the area under various treaties to protect migratory shorebirds to which Australia is a signatory.

Broad-billed Sandpiper
Another migratory shorebird regularly using the wetland was Curlew-Sandpiper, listed as critically endangered under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Diversity Conservation Act.
Other migratory shorebirds included species which are scarce visitors to Australia. The only records of Pectoral Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper in the Sunshine Coast region are from the Yandina Creek Wetland.

Australian Painted-Snipe
 A non-migratory shorebird seen several times at the wetland is the Australian Painted-Snipe, listed as endangered under the federal EPDCA; as many as seven of these rare wading birds have been observed. But the then federal  Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, saw no reason to intervene to save the wetland.

Red-kneed Dotterel
Some of the largest concentrations of Red-kneed Dotterel recorded in eastern Queensland have been at Yandina Creek, with more than 200 birds gathering.

Red-necked Avocet
 Another scarce resident shorebird, Red-necked Avocet, occurred there.

Spotted Harrier
I recently updated old records to present a full list of the 142 bird species recorded in the wetland here on ebird. Other wildlife of interest doubtlessly occurs but the landowners had refused permission to interested parties to undertake a full fauna and flora survey; Eastern Water-Rat and large numbers of Swamp Rat are among the mammals recorded.  Looking at the bird list shows how attractive the site was to raptors. Spotted Harrier, normally a rare visitor to south-east Queensland, is regular here.

Grey Goshawk
Grey Goshawk is usually a denizen of wet forests but at Yandina Creek it habitually sits out in the open.

Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon, nesting on nearby Mt Coolum, was a regular visitor.

Australian Hobby
Its smaller cousin, the Australian Hobby, was frequently observed.

Eastern Grass Owl
 The site was significant not just because of its wetlands. It includes substantial areas of well-developed grassland, which provides habitat for a different suite of wildlife. Although the wetland has been drained, the grasslands continue to flourish, although in the absence of tidal water flows they are gradually being replaced by exotic weeds and regrowth of Allocasuarina and Melaleuca trees. The grasslands are home to several pairs of the rare Eastern Grass-Owl.

Large-tailed Nightjar
The wetland is the most southerly site known for the Large-tailed Nightjar, another species that is extremely scarce in south-east Queensland.

Australian Little Bittern
The reeds provided refuge for a small population of the elusive Australian Little Bittern, which could be heard booming in the evening. The elevated tracks that line the canals dissecting the wetland provide excellent opportunities for observing birdlife. As has been noted previously, the site has great potential as an ecotourism destination.

Baillon's Crake
Also in the reeds lurked unusually large numbers of cryptic, uncommon waterbirds including Lewin's Rail, Spotless Crake, Australian Spotted Crake, and Baillon's Crake.

Black-tailed Native-hen
The Black-tailed Native-hen is known from just a handful of records in South-East Queensland but several birds have turned up at Yandina Creek.

Little Grassbird
Perching birds or passerines are well-represented by good populations of the likes of Little Grassbird and Tawny Grassbird in the tall grasses and reeds.

Tawny Grassbird
Red-backed Buttonquail, another species that is very rare in South-East Queensland, occurs in the grasslands, as does King Quail and Brown Quail.

Black-necked Stork
Two pairs of the stately Black-necked Stork used the wetland as a feeding ground, while Brolga was an occasional visitor.

Black Swan nest at Yandina Creek Wetland
Large numbers of waterfowl were to be found at Yandina Creek, with a healthy breeding population of Black Swans and several duck species. Many active swan nests were left stranded when the wetland was initially drained.

Pink-eared Duck
Other interesting waterfowl at the site include Australasian Shoveler and Pink-eared Duck.

Great Cormorant
More common species present in sometimes considerable numbers included Australian Pelican; Royal Spoonbill; all four species of Australian egret - Great, Intermediate, Little and Cattle; four cormorant species - Pied, Little Pied, Great and Little Black; and Australasian Darter.

Australian Pelicans & Royal Spoonbills
The mangroves along Yandina Creek were home to Black Bittern and Mangrove Gerygone.

Mangrove Gerygone

Map of properties comprising Yandina Creek Wetland


  1. Great photos Greg, what a shame that an area with such a large variety of birdlife and, undoubtedly, other wildlife has been drained for such vague reasons. Hopefully the wildlife will find somewhere to go.

  2. What a fantastic site. Where I live at Diamond Head, Golden Beach, the Pelican Waters Southern Lakes project has just taken out a small section of tidal wetlands which was nursery to a large number of local waterbirds. I've been supporting a white faced heron juvenile for 3 months, hoping one day he/she will be strong enough to engage with others. The amount of wildlife lost through clearing for a 'Marina' is truly tragic.... I've been following your efforts to secure this incredible place and can't help but think the site would be a prime place to invest some of Council's environment levy. What a legacy for the children of the future! Well done!

    1. Thanks Gail. Numerous attempts to persuade the council to spend some of its levy money on acquisition failed, but stay tuned, some good news soon.