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First Australian IBAs announced

The mudflats and freshwater wetlands beside the Gulf of Carpentaria have long been recognised as one of the finest areas in Australia for migratory shorebirds, water birds and grassland species. Now this vast sweep of country is among the first twelve Important Bird Areas (IBAs) approved by the Birds Australia Council (BirdLife in Australia). Although virtually none of the area is under formal conservation management, the status of IBA will help raise awareness of its significance among both of local people and government planners.Among the other IBAs approved by the Council are two that cover the entire distribution of the Endangered Golden-shouldered Parrot Psephotus chrysopterygius, most of which is on cattle grazing properties and much of the unique rainforests of north-east Queensland which contain a dozen local endemics. There is also an IBA that covers the rich agricultural fields of the Atherton Tablelands. While once these were covered in rainforest they now support significant populations of the globally Vulnerable Sarus Crane Grus antigone - the flights of cranes coming to roost each winter`s evening are among the most spectacular wildlife displays in the region.The work to identify the first Australian IBAs has been undertaken as a trial by Birds Australia North Queensland, a regional group of the national body. They hope to complete descriptions of another 12 IBAs over the next few months to complete coverage of the area. Workshops have also been held in central and southern Queensland and are soon to be held in the Northern Territory and New South Wales. While the process of describing and listing IBAs is slow, it is hoped that the local involvement will result in a greater commitment to IBA protection. As it is local Birds Australia members are trying to ensure landholders and all levels of government are drawn into the process of identifying IBAs so they will have ongoing attention.

4th July 2014