Lake Eyre


Country/territory: Australia

IBA Criteria met: A4i (2009)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 930,488 ha

Protection status:

BirdLife Australia
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2008 high not assessed not assessed
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here


Site description
The IBA is identical to Lake Eyre, which is located in central South Australia. The boundary of the IBA excludes dryland areas of Lake Eyre National Park and Elliott Price Conservation Park. Lake Eyre is both the largest saltlake and, at 15 m below sea level, the lowest point in Australia. It is a terminal catchment for various river systems in the arid region of central Australia, which are usually dry but occasionally flood. Lake Eyre floods from strong rainfall in the Queensland catchments (usually in La Niña years), or from local rain. It is flooded on average about once every eight years, but has been filled to capacity on only three occasions in the past 150 years. When flooding begins, the waters of Lake Eyre are almost fresh and can support freshwater fish carried to the lake by associated rivers. The salinity of the waters then increases as the salt crust dissolves, and brine shrimps hatch and breed unless depredated by fish from inflowing rivers. When over 4 m deep the lake is less salty than the sea but the salinity increases as the water evaporates. Many of the colonial birds nest on low, sparsely vegetated islands in the lake.

Key biodiversity
Species that have met 1% thresholds on single occasions (but may prove to regularly meet these numbers during floods) include: Pink-eared Duck, 64 to 18,136 in eight counts in 1990-1991 (Kingsford & Porter 1993) and 4412 in 1984 (Braithwaite et al. 1985); Grey Teal, maximum 82,257 in 1990-1991 (Kingsford & Porter 1993); Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Lane (1987) gives average count of 4000 and 1000 in one flock in 1977 (Badman 1979); Whiskered Tern, many tens of thousands in 1977 (Badman 1979), 2000 in 1984 (Braithwaite et al. 1985) and 1747 in 1990/91 (Kingsford & Porter 1993); and possible Red-necked Stint. The IBA supports notable breeding numbers of Gull-billed Tern with a maximum count of 1261 in 1984 (Braithwaite et al. 1985; Kingsford & Porter 1993). A total 125,000 migratory shorebirds were counted in December 1990 (Kingsford and Porter 1993). The biome-restricted Banded Whiteface (recorded in three of 32 Atlas of Australian Birds surveys, 1998 to 2008), Chirruping Wedgebill (recorded in four of 32 Atlas of Australian Birds surveys, 1998 to 2008), Cinnamon Quail-thrush (recorded in nine of 32 Atlas of Australian Birds surveys, 1998 to 2008) and Gibberbird (recorded in one of 32 Atlas of Australian Birds surveys, 1998 to 2008) have been recorded at Lake Eyre, but their status within the zones mapped for the IBA (i.e. the lake bed and associated low islands) is unclear.

Non-bird biodiversity: The entire population of the Lake Eyre Dragon is concentrated around Lake Eyre and nearby saltlakes.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Eyre. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 10/07/2020.