The sight of a single Eastern Curlew at Lake Conjola Entrance on New South Wales’ south coast is a poignant reminder of the perils this species faces. Australia is summer home to most of the world’s Eastern Curlew population but they breed in Russia and north-eastern China. They arrive in Australia from mid-July to September taking up residence along the coast.
I saw this single bird twice over a week in the same area, foraging in the shallow water for its preferred diet of crabs, shrimps and prawns. Numbers of Eastern Curlews have decreased eighty per cent over the past three decades and they are now listed as critically endangered.
A big factor in this decrease has been habitat loss: in Australia as mudflats were reclaimed to build airports, marinas and housing, and in Asia as development envelops bird “refueling” spots on the great East Asia Australasia Flyway route to Australia. It is outrageous to hear that Australia’s government is still positively considering the huge development project at Toondah Harbour in Queensland, on an internationally protected (Ramsar) mudflat, a site that supports a large population of Eastern Curlews. Another nail in the coffin for the Eastern Curlew!