Mornington Sanctuary

Year of compilation: 2008

Site description
Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary IBA follows the boundaries of the station, now a Wildlife Sanctuary, in the Pentecost subregion of the Central Kimberley bioregion of north-west Australia. The IBA is identical to the property as it is managed for biodiversity conservation, specifically Gouldian Finches. The adjacent Marion Downs station has recently been acquired for conservation and may be added to the IBA if the new management enables it to support significant numbers of the key birds. The landscape is dominated by massive sandstone mesas and heavily folded sandstone ranges, but also includes low escarpments, volcanic plains, glacial rock pavements, and valleys with deep alluvia. The annual rainfall is about 700 mm per year. Several permanent waterways run through the property, most notably the major tributaries and the upper reaches of the Fitzroy River. The dominant vegetation types on Mornington are various types of tropical savanna - using the Beard classification system, the National Land and Water Resources Audit identified 12 different savanna-based Vegetation Associations on the property. Other ecosystems are embedded within the savanna, including fire-sensitive systems such as riparian systems and Livistona gullies, herb fields on sandstone pavements, Callitris intratropica communities, and sandy seepage areas at the base of sandstone ranges. All of these ecosystems are considered 'at risk' by the NLWR Audit. The bird fauna is a mix of semi-arid rangeland and tropical savanna species.

Key biodiversity
Thus bird diversity is high, with over 195 species recorded here to date. Mornington also has significant numbers of several bird species of conservation significance at state and/or federal level including Square-tailed Kite, Peregrine Falcon and Pictorella Mannikin. The riparian areas have high numbers of raptors, especially Barking Owl, Southern Boobook, Brown Falcon, Grey Goshawk, and Collared Sparrowhawk. Diurnal raptor diversity is high in general, with 20 species recorded out of the 24 listed for Australia. Because Mornington lies between the wetter areas of the north Kimberley, and the drier deserts to the south, some unusual species turn up in reasonable numbers seasonally, including Black Honeyeater, Shining Flycatcher, Hooded Robin and Yellow Chat. The sanctuary also supports small numbers of the near threatened Star Finch and Blue-billed Duck.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary contains 20 species of frog, 65 species of reptile, and at least 29 species of mammal (including 20 non-volant species). These totals grow as more fauna surveys are undertaken. Species of conservation significance include Crocodylus johnstoni (Specially Protected Fauna under WA legislation), Petropseudes dahli and Hydromys chrysogaster (both Priority Fauna under WA legislation), and Dasyurus hallucatus (Endangered under EPBC Act). The list of plant species is continually growing, but currently stands at over 600, including several listed as Priority Flora under WA State legislation, and one plant that is federally listed as vulnerable - Eucalyptus mooreana.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Reduce the scale and frequency of mid-late dry season fires, increase the average fire-free interval for key vegetation types, and increase the proportion of burns that occur during the storm season. Destocking cattle, opportunistically shoot cats and donkeys. Set and follow weed management plans.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
a) Biodiversity surveys. AWC conducts regular and opportunistic biodiversity surveys. b) Fire monitoring. A 7-year fire history for the property has been produced using satellite imagery. Remote sensing technology is used to monitor and log all fires that occur on Mornington. c) Regular flora and fauna monitoring. A network of permanent monitoring sites spread throughout the property has been established to measure the effects of the major land management activities (fire and destocking). c) Conservation management of seed-eating birds. A research program is underway to determine how fire and cattle affect seed-eating birds (including the Gouldian Finch). This research is designed to inform best-practice land management for this guild. Part of this research is carried out collaboratively with partner organisations (Birds Australia, Parks and Wildlife Commission of the NT, Uni. of Wollongong, Charles Darwin Uni.), and involves several AWC staff members, two PhD students, several academics and NT Parks management staff.

Protected areas
The IBA is identical to Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary.

Land ownership
Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary is privately owned and managed by Australian Wildlife Conservancy for conservation purposes.

Site access / Land-owner requests
A small visitor facility enables the public to visit the property, experience its wildlife and wilderness values, and be exposed (through an Interpretation Program) to the threats facing Australia's tropical savanna.

Sarah Legge wrote the nomination and has helped advise on IBAs across the northern savanna.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mornington Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 26/05/2022.