Lakefield Grasslands covers one of the largest areas of grassland on Cape York Peninsula and encompasses the northern part of Lakefield National Park, 340km north-west of Cairns, on Cape York Peninsula. The IBA follows the boundary of the grasslands, which extend onto Kalpwar in the east and the Marina plains in the west, as mapped in the finch recovery plan (Dorricott and Garnett 2007). The grasslands occur over a broad alluvial plain in the centre of the Laura Basin, a geological depression which drains northwards into Princess Charlotte Bay. The area is monsoonal with relatively low rainfall. During the peak of the wet season, rains cause the rivers (notably the North Kennedy, Normanby and Morehead rivers) to flood. Water rises above the river banks and spills out onto the floodplains, creating an extensive wetland system of billabongs, lagoons, swamps and lakes. Mangroves occur along the coast and estuaries but are backed by saltmarsh and extensive, seasonally inundated grasslands. These give way to eucalypt and melaleuca woodland further inland. Dry rainforest occurs along major waterways. Lakefield National Park is significant in Aboriginal heritage and culture.
The endangered Golden-shouldered Parrot was possibly resident in the 1960s, but there have only been occasional subsequent records. A Gouldian Finch was seen in 1993. There are also isolated populations of Little Corella, Singing Bushlark and Zitting Cisticola. In the wet season, seasonally inundated swamps support a range of waterbirds, including numerous Magpie Goose, Plumed Whistling-Duck, herons, egrets, Royal Spoonbill, Black-necked Stork and Brolga. The area supports the largest known populations of the nationally endangered Cape York subspecies of Crimson Finch and substantial populations of the (nationally near threatened) Black-faced Woodswallow and small numbers of restricted-range Lovely Fairy-wren. Small numbers of Sarus Cranes have been observed among Brolgas (S. Garnett in litt. 2004). Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters are uncommon on the grasslands (Atlas of Australian Birds database).
Non-bird biodiversity: Vulnerable Saltwater Crocodile occur in most streams and lagoons with Freshwater Crocodiles in freshwaters. Agile wallabies are common on the plains with Antilopine Wallabies in the woodland. Lakeland Downs Mouse Mesembriomys gouldi occur occasionally. The grasslands are being invaded by native shrubs, particularly Melaleuca viridiflora, as a result of grazing and changes in burning regime.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lakefield Grasslands. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/12/2019.