Ord Irrigation Area

Year of compilation: 2008

Site description
The IBA consists of the entire irrigated area on the Ord around Kununurra and the adjacent Lake Kununurra. This perennially wet land supports cumbungi and native wetland grasses, which support much higher numbers of the key birds than the surrounding non-irrigated bush and pastoral land. The Ord irrigation and drainage infrastructure was designed and constructed in the early 1960s, with commercial farming commencing in 1963. The main Ord Dam, damming Lake Argyle, was completed in 1972 and transformed 14,000 ha of cattle grazing land into highly productive agricultural land with an output valued in 2006 at $47-67 million per annum. Farm blocks are typically in the range of 260 to 360 ha in size and have predominantly heavy black cracking clay soils most suited to furrow irrigation. The main crops have been sugarcane, sandalwood, fruit, vegetables and cotton. The most important habitats for Star Finches and Yellow-rumped Mannikins are cumbungi and native grasses, which persist along waterways, around the margins of Lake Kununurra and in agricultural fallows. Annual rainfall for the area is 790 mm, mainly from October to April.

Key biodiversity
The IBA may also support significant numbers of Brolga and Little Curlew. Australian Little Bittern (up to seven seen) and locally significant numbers of waterbirds on Lake Kununurra. Other notable species recorded occasionally include the near threatened Letter-winged Kite; the restricted-range (endemic) White-quilled Rock-Pigeon; and the biome-restricted Varied Lorikeet, Northern Rosella, Bar-breasted Honeyeater and Banded Honeyeater (Atlas of Australian Birds database).

Non-bird biodiversity: None recorded.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Rank grass should be maintained and allowed to seed. Dense grasses and reeds should be maintained along water channels where practicable.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
The Ord Irrigation Cooperative (OIC) has a number of environmental projects addressing issues of water quality and conservation.

Protected areas

Land ownership
Leasehold agricultural farms.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ord Irrigation Area. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/04/2020.