Pin-up Bird - Beach-stone Curlew
Bird enthusiasts in the Byron Shire became very excited in late 2009 when a pair of critically endangered Beach Stone-curlews were seen, firstly in the Belongil Estuary and then in the Brunswick River. This is an area which over a five year period has only recorded one bird and then only for a brief period of time. It disappeared without finding a mate. The question is, will the remaining pair (which at time of writing in July 2010 were still here), breed in an area protected by the Cape Byron Marine Park?
Shortly before the Belongil Curlew departed, the resident bird did have a visit from another curlew with three mental bands tags but soon after, it too departed due to the impact of human and dog disturbance from Sunrise Beach estate.
Beach Stone-curlews with their overall grey, brown, black & white appearance camouflage well into coastal habitat especially when they make use of beach driftwood to take a rest during the day. Though once spotted they are easily identified; they are large with a big thick beak and large thick-knees which was once their common name.
The size of the Australian population of
Beach Stone-curlew is uncertain but it’s reported to be less then a thousand. There are
less then 15 nesting
If you hear an eerie harsh ascending wailing call at night on the beach it would probably be a breeding pair marking their territory. Its relative, the Bush Stone-curlew also has a similar eerie wailing call that maybe heard in bushland & grasslands.
Like most resident shorebirds Beach Stone-curlews breed from September to November either among mangroves, or islands in estuaries or in the sand surrounded by short grasses and casuarinas. This type of habitat is well represented in our area, but they only lay one egg at a nesting. They may have two nestings in a season if something happens to the first egg, making their survival very fragile even without the impacts of humans and their associated activities. They are good parents as both birds will care for their sole dependent until it can defend for itself.
Once upon a time our beaches and estuaries had minimal disturbance and the threats were small, mainly from some native hunting and gathering activities and natural predators like raptors and crows but now that’s all changed. Now, there are multiple introduced threats such as foxes, domestic dogs, cats and pigs, plus large areas of habitat loss and destruction from urban and industrial development. In addition, there is nest disturbance leading to nest desertion from beach-combing, dog-walking, boating, fishing and 4WD vehicles.
BBB’s message is “lobby to protect our undisturbed beaches, mudflats and estuaries Keep your dogs and cats inside at night and only walk dogs in designated areas and finally lobby Council to include an assessment of the appropriateness of dog and cat ownership in new coastal sub-divisions”.
“Watch out for the Birds”.