Simpson Desert

Country/territory: Australia

IBA Criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (2009)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 2,284,817 ha

Protection status:

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

Site description
The Simpson Desert IBA consists of five large contiguous reserves in Queensland and South Australia. This is based on the stronghold of the Eyrean Grasswren in the Simpson Desert, with records extending north to Ethabuka. As poor survey data and extensive habitat makes it impracticable to delineate an IBA based on the distribution of this and other desert species, the IBA is defined as the reserves with reduced grazing pressure and better habitat management: Simpson Desert Conservation Park, Simpson Desert National Park, Ethabuka Nature Refuge, Mulligan River Nature Refuge and Cravens Peak Nature Refuge. The size of these reserves and their latitudinal range should provide an adequate area for most arid country bird species. However, the IBA could be extended to include more of Simpson Desert Regional Reserve and Kalamurina Station (to the south) and adjacent unprotected areas of the Northern Territory. The north of Cravens Peak is dominated by the Toko Plains, the south by the Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields, which extend south across the whole IBA. The north-east of the IBA also has extensive areas of flood-out Channel Country, which often intergrades into gidgee woodlands and tall shrubland communities before the dunefields. Landforms include rocky gorges, escarpments, mesas, gibber plains, ephemeral clay pans, semi-permanent waterholes, dunefields and natural artesian springs. The IBA contains the catchments of the Mulligan, Field, Georgina and Diamantina rivers and a number of important waterholes, including the Mulligan River - Wheeler Creek Junction which is listed as a nationally important wetland. The climate is extremely hot and arid; in the south of the IBA, temperatures can exceed 50oC in summer and average rainfall is less than 150 mm per year.

Key biodiversity
Craven's Peak is likely to qualify the IBA for threatened birds as there have been two records of the Endangered Plains-wanderer (D. Wells in litt. 2008) and it is within the mapped range of this species (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990) but more surveys are required to confirm the species' regular presence. Other birds of interest include the vulnerable Painted Honeyeater listed without indication of numbers at Ethabuka (Bush Heritage 2008); one record of the near threatened Letter-winged Kite in 549 Atlas of Australian Birds surveys in Simpson Desert CP/NP from 1998 to 2008 (Atlas of Australian Birds database); one record of three near threatened Blue-billed Ducks in 46 surveys of 500 m radius at Cravens Peak (Wells 2008) and recorded in the far south of Simpson Desert NP (Spurgeon and Spurgeon 1998). Also Pictorella Mannikin, rarely this far south, recorded in seven of 46 surveys of 500 m radius at Cravens Peak (Wells 2008) and at Mulligan River (Anderson 2007); one report of Slaty-backed Thornbill from Simpson Desert (McLennan 2001); and several records of Yellow Chat. The ephemeral wetlands support relatively high numbers of various waterbirds and shorebirds e.g. 24 Freckled Duck, 468 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and 602 Brolga at Lake Amaroo on Mulligan River NR in 2007 (Harding and Milton 2009).

Non-bird biodiversity: Cravens Peak supports 21 known vegetation communities, 30 mammal species, 120 bird species and more than 65 reptile species. Ethubuka supports 26 native mammal species including the Mulgara, which is listed as nationally vulnerable, Desert Short-tailed Mouse, Spinifex Hopping Mouse, Desert Mouse and Sandy Inland Mouse, 54 reptile species and 112 bird species.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Simpson Desert. Downloaded from on 07/08/2020.