A wide variety of birds live in Victoria’s coastal wetlands and on our beaches. These birds live in our coastal wetlands because they’re specially adapted to the changing water levels and the kinds of habitats that exist in our coastal wetlands.
So for example, ducks live on the water, birds such as egrets live in the fringing vegetation surrounding the edges of wetlands and a lot of our shorebirds spend most of their time wading around in the shallow mud or have also adapted to live on high energy beaches.
The main resource that all of these birds need is water. Water supplies all of the habitat and nutrients for the food that they eat. Wetlands also provide habitat that some of these birds need to hide in, to hide from predators or also to make their nests in.
Migratory shorebirds are one of the most spectacular groups of birds that live on Victoria’s coastal wetlands and on our beaches. These birds spend several months every year preparing for, and carrying out, the longest known journeys in the natural world. Around 36 species regularly migrate and spend the summer in Australia where they take advantage of the good weather and the plentiful food before travelling an average of up to 10 thousand kilometres to their breeding grounds in the far northern hemisphere.
One of our most common shorebirds on Victoria’s coastal wetlands is the Red-necked Stint, and it’s also a smallest shorebird, weighing in at a tiny 30 grams which is less than a chocolate bar. In comparison, the Eastern Curlew is our largest shorebird and that can weigh over a kilo.
The path that these birds travel along from Australia and New Zealand to their breeding grounds is called the East Asian - Australasian Flyway and this encompasses 23 countries and is used by over five million birds every year. We know a little bit about where these birds go and where they travel by undertaking banding and flagging studies and there are special groups in Australia that catch birds and put little bands or flags on them. After they leave Australia to migrate they’re often re-sighted or re-captured along the way and that’s how we learn about where they stop over and the places they visit.
More recently satellite transmitters have been attached to Bar-tailed Godwits migrating from New Zealand and Australia, and famously one bird was recorded travelling the longest nonstop migration distance ever recorded. It travelled over 11 thousand kilometres in eight days nonstop from Alaska back to New Zealand.
People can help to conserve coastal habitats for these birds by being aware that they share the wetlands and beaches with these special birds, in particular birds such as the Hooded Plover, nest on our beaches and they’re quite threatened due to the high levels of disturbance from us.
If you’re spending time on the beach just be aware and keep your distance from the birds so that you don’t disturb them. Keep your dog on a leash and be aware of local signs and regulations pointing out where birds are roosting or nesting.