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Mackay welcomes international air travellers

Bar Tailed GodwitWe all love Mackay’s beaches as a place to relax and have fun. But how often do we think of them as a home for birds?

Thousands of shorebirds depend on them, either to nest or to feed on. And as more and more of us use the beach for recreation, we need to be careful how we do it.

Our beaches host two main groups of shorebirds: ones which live here all year round and nest on the beach, such as Red-capped Plovers, and migratory shorebirds, such as Bar-tailed Godwits, which arrive from their northern hemisphere breeding grounds at the start of our summer, to fatten up by feeding on our tidal flats.

Great KnotThis second group includes some of the animal world’s best endurance athletes. Every year they fly thousands of kilometres from as far as the Arctic, before flying all the way back again for the northern summer. They can be seen in large numbers on several local beaches, especially when roosting at high tide.

If you’ve ever noticed a big flock of birds near the water’s edge, which take to the air as you or your dog approach, these will often be shorebirds.

Although this may seem like a natural event, when it happens as often as it does on popular beaches it forces the birds to use up energy which they can’t afford to lose as they prepare for their huge migrations.

At the same time, our beach-nesting birds are threatened by problems such as vehicles driving on beaches, crushing nests and eggs.

These pressures come on top of global ones, such as habitat destruction, which are causing alarming falls in our shorebird numbers.

We can all do our bit to help, however, by not driving on beaches, keeping dogs on leads, and avoiding any nesting birds and large flocks which we see.

Photos by Marlis Schoeb
Top-right: Bar-tailed Godwit
Middle-left: Great Knot


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