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Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary

Home > Adelaide > Photography | Outdoor | Nature | Free | Animals and Wildlife
by Paula McManus (subscribe)
Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published October 2nd 2015
birds flock to Adelaide's coastline
Every Australian summer, thousands of birds flock to the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary on the Samphire Coast north of Adelaide in South Australia. It is part of the "Gulf St Vincent Important Bird Area"

Hooded Plover (Thinornis cucullatus)
close to extinction: Hooded Plover (Thinornis cucullatus) (©paula mcmanus)

The term "Samphire" is the name of the salt tolerant shrubs and plants that grow in the area.

The Samphire Coast is one of South Australia's most important and significant habitats for migratory shorebirds and is one of the longest continuous coastal reserves in the state.

Samphire, native succulent, sea asparagus, swamp grass, salicorne, glasswort, pickleweed, sea beans
Samphire swamp grass (©paula mcmanus)

The now decommissioned salt fields area at Dry Creek is known as a wetland of national and international significance. A large percentage of the International Bird Sanctuary shorebird population feeds and roosts in the salt ponds at high tide.

Some of the birds are local species - they breed and raise their young on the shores of the beach and in the mangroves, mudflats and sand dunes. Joining them are some species who come all the way from the northern hemisphere in their annual migration - some from as far away as Alaska and Siberia.

juvenile little pied cormorant
juvenile Hoary-headed Grebe (©paula mcmanus)

This annual migration is known as the East Asian-Australasian Flyway - one of the worlds greatest flyways. The long distance migratory shorebirds pass through 22 countries and fly distances of up to 11,000kms.

In all, approximately 27,000 birds from 200 different species call the area home each summer. Of those 200 species, 16 of them are listed as rare and endangered.

The sanctuary covers an area of 2,300 hectares and stretches from the Barker Inlet to Port Parham, north of Adelaide.

Barker Inlet, Port Adelaide
Barker Inlet (©paula mcmanus)

The Barker Inlet is a tidal inlet, part of the Port River system. In it is one of the world's southernmost mangrove forests. It's also home to the Port River Dolphin Sanctuary, has seagrass meadows and is an important fish and shellfish breeding ground.

Shorebirds face many changes to their bodies as they make their journey. There are also numerous threats to their lives and their breeding grounds.

Shorebirds don't nest in trees - their nesting sites are on the ground, usually just above the high tide line. The tiny bird eggs are hard to see; they are very well camouflaged.

Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus)
Australian Pelican (©paula mcmanus)

So, when visiting the Sanctuary, watch where you step. If a parent bird sees you, it will abandon it's nest until the threat (you) is gone. Try not to linger or sit near a shorebird nesting area. Staying too long may cause the parent bird to leave their nest, and the young babies in it, permanently.

Beach four wheel driving can be fun, but off road vehicles can unwittingly destroy a whole nesting area. As can dogs off leashes, cats left to wander and foxes who are looking for a meal.

Terns (©paula mcmanus)

Birdlife Australia has been monitoring the shorebird population in the Gulf St Vincent with the support of the Adelaide & Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board for the past eight years.

The Sanctuary will become a safe haven for birds and will ensure the conservation and protection of this area for the future.

It's an ideal place for bird watchers and nature lovers to see some beautiful coastal birds, shorebirds, reptiles and butterflies.

masked lapwing masked plover spur-winged plover
Masked Lapwing (Vanellus Miles) ©paula mcmanus

Where is the sanctuary?
The Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary is located north-west of Adelaide and covers 60 kilometres of coast from the Barker Inlet to Port Parham.

If you'd like to get involved or find out more about the bird sanctuary:

Like the Adelaide & Mt Lofty Ranges and the National Parks of South Australia Facebook pages, or
Sign up to the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary e-newsletter

birdwatching Samphire Coast
Birdwatching, Samphire Coast. Map courtesy of Birdlife Australia

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Why? SA's bird habitat of international significance
Where: Samphire Coast, north of Adelaide
Your Comment
Great photos - now I can identify the Little Pied Cormorant by it's actual name (rather than 'fluffy bum' - which is how we have been informally identifying them)!
by Jenny Pickett (score: 3|1725) 2303 days ago
Amazing photography as always Paula.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|9626) 2303 days ago
Beautiful photos - you're very talented!
by Erin (score: 2|560) 2299 days ago
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