Wildlife Spotlight: Seabirds
Sightseeing & Dining
Many know about the wealth of marine life that inhabit the Gold Coast bay area, but did you know that an abundant species of seabirds and shorebirds also call this region home?
Birds in the Broadwater
A combination of islands, wetlands, bush, mangroves, and vast shorelines creates many habitats for sea birds. The Gold Coast Broadwater is an important location for migratory birds who make long annual journeys between Australia and the Northern Hemisphere. Their migration is an estimated 16,000 to 20,000km in length, with some birds taking very few rest breaks on the ground.
Splendid fliers, Australian pelicans can soar to heights of 3000 metres on giant 2.5-metre wings. Australian pelicans have the longest bills out of all bird species, measuring 40-50cm long and can hold up to 13 litres of water. Look for them cruising on the surface or resting on the sandbanks in the Gold Coast Broadwater.
The Australian pelican’s bill is very sensitive and can detect fish in the water.
Visitor from Russia and Northern China.
The eastern curlew is the largest of all shorebirds and is recognisable by its long downturned bill. It uses its bill to bury deep into the mud and dig up mud crabs, their favourite food.
Eastern curlew dips its long beak into mud shallow water to feed. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Everyone’s favourite (or least favourite) resident bird is the silver gull. They are recognisable by their bright red bill, legs and eye-ring; these gulls are often seen resting in large flocks on the banks of the Broadwater. As scavengers, they often find their next meal in the shape of food scraps or annoy humans for a bite of hot chips. They also stick close to fishing boats to forage for any meat to eat.
Visitor from the Northern Hemisphere.
Despite its name, the common tern isn’t that common in Australia. An interesting fact about the common tern is that its head changes colour during the breeding season. When it is ready to mate in the Northern Hemisphere, the crown to the nape of the neck of the tern turns from white to black.
White-Bellied Sea Eagle
The white-bellied sea eagle is the largest bird of prey in Australia, with a wingspan of 2 metres long. Their diet consists of sea creatures such as turtles, fish and sea snakes. It’s distinguished by its white head and underbody and grey back and wings. Keep an eye for their in-flight fishing.
The white-bellied sea eagle is about to strike a fish in the water. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Resident ‘penguin’ bird
“Is that a penguin?” is a common phrase directed towards these funny looking birds. With their webbed feet, adorable waddle and black and white colouring, there is reason to believe as to why you might think these tropical birds are their distant Antarctic cousins. Watch them diving for fish in the water or stretching their wings out to dry on the rocks.
Their black and white markings of cormorants make for a penguin double-take. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
The grey plover is an interesting little bird that has been known to migrate over 7000km without taking a break on land. Scientists are still yet to fully understand grey plovers as they are difficult to track. They have discovered that only the females of the species migrate to Australia, and researchers are still trying to determine where the male plover when the females are away. Grey plovers are recognisable by their medium size, pale greyish-brown feathers, dark eyes and heavy black bill.