Coongie Lakes

Site description (2008 baseline):

Site location and context
This IBA is comprised of a large part of the Coongie Lakes National Park, centred on Lake Goolangirie (= Lake Goyder) and adjacent lakes of known waterbird importance, on the lower Cooper Creek system in north-east South Australia. The IBA could be extended to include the maximum extent of ephemerally flooded waterbodies and channels extending south across Innamincka Regional Reserve to the Strzelecki Desert Lakes IBA but there is inadequate survey data from most of this region. The Coongie Lakes system receives flows most years from Cooper Creek via its North West Branch which carries floodwaters to Tirrawarra Swamp and then north to the lakes. Lakes Coongie, Marroocoolcannie, Marroocutchanie, Toontoowaranie and Goyder fill regularly, whereas Lake Marradibbadibba is mainly dry. Other important lakes include Lakes Apanburra, Marradibbadibba, Lady Blanche, Sir Richard and Sturt Ponds. Cooper Creek is the longest and most important dryland river in Australia and one of the largest endorheic catchments in the world. The system consists of a series of channels and permanent and temporary waterholes with floodplains, gibber plains, sand plains and inland sand dunes. The vegetation consists of a mixture of grasses, herbs, open shrubland and open woodland, with grasses, herbs and low shrubs dominant in arid areas, and open woodland concentrated around channels, waterholes and areas of more frequent inundation. The soils are deep, cracking, grey clays (dry lake beds) and siliceous sands (dunefields). The IBA experiences an arid climate with warm to hot temperatures and mean annual rainfall of 100-150 mm. Over 100,000 waterbirds were estimated in the summers 1990/91, 1991/92, 1997/98, 2000/01 and 2001/02. The IBA is largely within the Innamincka Regional Reserve and wholly within the Coongie Lakes Ramsar site which covers almost 2 million hectares.

Key biodiversity
The first specimen of the critically endangered Night Parrot was collected in the Coongie Lakes System on Captain Charles Sturt's expedition in 1845, and there were two possible observations there in 1987 (Reid 2000a; J. Reid in litt. 2009). The region also supports numbers of the endangered Plains-wanderer (one record of two birds in 1976, Bennett 1983); the near threatened Letter-winged Kite (rare to uncommon breeding visitor; Cox and Pedler 1977; Badman 1989; J. Reid in litt. 2009), Grey Falcon (rare but has been recorded breeding; Badman 1989; J. Reid in litt. 2009; Atlas of Australian Birds database), Bush Thick-knee (presumed rare breeding resident based on a limited number of observations made over the past few decades; Badman and May 1983; Badman 1989; J. Reid in litt. 2009; S. Parker unpublished) and Painted Honeyeater (two records of passage birds; J. Reid in litt. 2009); the biome-restricted Black Honeyeater (uncommon; Atlas of Australian Birds database); and the uncommon Yellow Chat (several birds in grassy dry lake bed of Lake Toontoowaranie in 2003; J. Reid in litt. 2009). The IBA supports notable numbers of several other species including 3501 Australian Pratincole counted on Coongie Lakes system in November 1997 but estimated to be 7000 (Reid 2000b); 2500 Flock Bronzewing in Coongie Lakes in autumn 1987 (Reid 1988) with smaller numbers and breeding noted intermittently to 2003 including 400 in 2003 (J. Reid in litt. 2009); 12,000 Eurasian Coot and 7991 Hardhead in 2002 (Costelloe et al. 2004). Australian Painted Snipe, which is listed as nationally vulnerable, bred at Lake Toontoowaranie in 2002 (Costelloe et al. 2004).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Maintain Cooper Creek as a wholly unmodified hydrological system. Investigate the impact of over-grazing and erosion by livestock and rabbits. Expand the national park to include additional lakes of importance.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Coongie Lakes is inscribed on the Ramsar list as a wetland of international importance. It is the largest of the 64 inscribed Ramsar sites in Australia.

Protected areas
The IBA includes 66% of the Coongie Lakes National Park and a portion of the Innamincka Regional Reserve.

Land ownership
Coongie Lakes National Park is managed by the Department for Environment and Heritage. Most of the remaining land is under pastoral and mineral exploration leases.

Richard Kingsford, Julian Reid and Roger Jaensch provided data and advice.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Coongie Lakes. Downloaded from on 21/02/2024.