Cooper Floodplain Below Windorah

Site description (2008 baseline):

Site location and context
The IBA contains the floodplains and swamps associated with the Cooper Creek overflow floodplains between Windorah and Tanbar stations in the Channel Country of inland central Queensland. The exact IBA boundaries were based on expert opinion of R. Jaensch of Wetlands International to include the most important areas for birds, including and major floods of Cooper Creek, and Whitula Creek is an important contributor in some years. Major floods occur about once every five years. The IBA largely lacks major deep channels and, with complex micro-scale drainage networks, it tends to retain water for several to many months after floods and thus provide excellent waterbird habitat. Vegetation includes short forbs, grasses and sedges to tall tussock grass, vast legume thickets, and bluebush and lignum and belalie swamps. Waterholes are few and relatively small but are fringed by lignum, belalie and coolibahs. There are isolated pockets of low sand dunes and mounds. Average rainfall is 292 mm at Windorah Station. The IBA could be extended past Lake Yamma Yamma IBA and along the whole floodplain, downstream to Nappa Merrie near the South Australian border, where waterbirds have been recorded in lower densities, if further surveys better quantify breeding and non-breeding populations.

Key biodiversity
Aerial surveys in the flood event commencing mid-January 2004 counted 83,000 birds, suggesting a total, including overlooked individuals, of 200,000 waterbirds plus breeding birds in colonies (Jaensch 2004). 8.4% of the 524 identified individuals were Plumed Whistling-Ducks, suggesting a total of 6000-17,000 Plumed Whistling-Ducks; similar calculations suggest 10,000-24,000 Whiskered Tern and 5000-11,000 Grey Teal (Jaensch 2004). This flood supported 16 breeding species, including 3350 nests of (Eastern) Great Egret, and also Pink-eared Duck, Glossy Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Whiskered Tern, Black-tailed Native-hen and Brolga., and at least 2000 pairs of (Eastern) Great Egret were nesting at Candue Swamp in 2000; these colonies have been in use for decades (Costelloe et al. 2004; R. Jaensch Wetlands International unpubl. data). The IBA is calculated to regularly support over 100,000 waterbirds more than once per decade based on the area of swamp country and typical waterbird densities (R. Jaensch in litt. 2008). The Atlas of Australian Birds database contains single records of the near threatened Grey Falcon and Australian Bustard and the biome-restricted Bourke's Parrot out of 23 surveys for the period 1998 to 2008 (Atlas of Australian Birds database); it is expected that these and other terrestrial species may prove to occur in significant numbers.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Further research required to clarify species composition and numbers of nests at all waterbird colonies, and to quantify numbers of pairs of dispersed breeders such as ducks and Black-tailed Native-hens. Monitor proposals for upstream water abstraction.

Protected areas

Land ownership
Three leasehold cattle stations; Mayfield - Ourdel, South Galway and Tanbar Stations.

Site access / Land-owner requests
Land-owner permission must be sought if leaving public roads.

Roger Jaensch of Wetlands International provided unpublished data, review comments and interpretation on the habitat and waterbird information.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Cooper Floodplain Below Windorah. Downloaded from on 27/09/2023.