King Island

Year of compilation: 2008

Site description
King Island is a large island in the Bass Strait between Tasmania and the Australian mainland. The IBA includes the entire coastline of King Island, which supports significant numbers of Hooded Plovers; Lavinia State Reserve, which supports Orange-bellied Parrots and endemic subspecies of bush birds; and three inshore islands which support large numbers of nesting seabirds. These islands are Christmas Island (a 63 ha Nature Reserve), New Year Island (a 98 ha Game Reserve, on which harvesting of shearwaters is allowed) and Councillor Island (11 ha of Crown Land). Lavinia State Reserve, a designated Ramsar site, is located 12 km north of Naracoopa on the north-eastern coast of King Island and is comprised of long sandy beaches, coastal heathlands, wetlands and the Sea Elephant River estuary. The coastline is a mixture of rocky outcrops and long sandy beaches with beach-washed kelp. The IBA is defined as the coastal strip extending from the low water mark to 1 km inland of the high water mark around the entire island; this is intended to capture most significant habitat for shorebirds and Orange-bellied Parrots. King Island is a rolling island with a maximum altitude of 168 m above sea-level. It receives the highest rainfall of any island in Bass Strait, with a winter-dominated rainfall pattern averaging 750-1000 mm per year.

Key biodiversity
The extinct King Island Emu was endemic to the island before being exterminated by European sealers. 170 bird species have been recorded from the island but the endemic subspecies of the Brown Thornbill has not been recorded since 1971. Several species of migratory waders have been observed on King Island in numbers less than IBA thresholds, including maxima of 1100 Ruddy Turnstones, 500 Red-necked Stints and 285 Double-banded Plovers (Donaghey 2003; Lovibond et al. 2007). Blue-billed Duck is reportedly at times abundant on Lake Fannigan (Donaghey 2003). 5000 pairs of Common Diving-Petrel and 1500 of pairs Fairy Prion have been recorded on Councillor Island (Brothers et al. 2001).

Non-bird biodiversity: Lavinia State Reserve contains the largest significant area of remnant native vegetation on King Island, and includes a number of rare or threatened plant species. One hundred and thirty nine species of higher plants have been recorded, of which seven species are endemic to Tasmania. A number of plants are considered rare or threatened: Scrambling Ground-fern is considered vulnerable at state level and Lavinia State Reserve is the only reserve in Tasmania in which it has been recorded. Other species include: Tiny Caladenia, Common Sneezeweed, Matted Water Starwort, Blueberry Ash, Bog Clubmoss, Tiny Selaginella, Sticky Daisybush, Cudweed (Gamochaeta purpurea), Hyssop Loosestrife and the violet Viola cleistogamoides.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Greater control of human disturbance (especially use of 4WD vehicles) on beaches would protect saltmarsh, sand dunes and beaches important for Orange-bellied Parrots, Hooded Plovers and Fairy Terns. Active fire management is needed to conserve habitat for bush birds in Lavinia State Reserve.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Honours degree survey of shorebirds and terns on the island in 2006/07. Ongoing monitoring of Fairy Tern breeding populations.

Protected areas
Several - see separate section.

Land ownership
Most of coast is Crown Land; Lavinia State Reserve (and Ramsar site) is managed by Tasmanian NPWS.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: King Island. Downloaded from on 09/07/2020.