Disturbances to Urban Waterbirds

To: "'Peter Shute'" <>, "'Stephen Ambrose'" <>, "'Birding Australia'" <>
Subject: Disturbances to Urban Waterbirds
From: "Stephen Ambrose" <>
Date: Sun, 25 Jan 2009 15:21:28 +1100
Jill, the Waterbird Refuge at Sydney Olympic Park is part of the Homebush
Bay Wetlands on the upper reaches of the Parramatta River. Bird counts
co-ordinated by the Sydney Olympic Park Authority and others have identified
a number of spots along and near the upper reaches of the river as
significant roosting spots for migratory shorebirds and other waterbirds.
The Waterbird Refuge is particularly important as a roosting spot for
Chestnut Teal and Grey Teal, as well as some other waterbird species. This
is probably because the wetland is a relatively safe spot for them at night
and relatively free of disturbances in what is otherwise a busy urban

Peter, it was hard to determine the true extent of the responses when the
helicopters were flying over at night because it was dark. However, I can
say that the Black-winged Stilts sounded their alarm calls as the
helicopters approached and took flight by circling low above the wetland,
before settling down again. Teal that were roosting on the banks of the
wetland entered the water and swam to the deepest sections of the wetland
(not very deep), while calling. I'm not sure what the other bird species
did, including the Red-necked Avocets, on these occasions because it was
dark and it all happened at once. It's hard to tell if the responses of the
Black-winged Stilts to the helicopters caused alarm responses from other
species, or whether the other species were responding directly to the
helicopters, or both. Anyway, all the birds seemed to settle down very soon
after the helicopters had passed overhead.

Helicopter activity around this area is quite heavy during the day, not sure
what it is like at night. Helicopters frequently fly along the Parramatta
River, media crews often film sporting and other major events at Sydney
Olympic Park (at night, as well as during the day), I suspect helicopters
often fly overhead as they travel to and from the heliport at Sydney Airport
and, of course, there are the helicopters that monitor the daily traffic
conditions around Sydney.

Stephen Ambrose.
Ryde, NSW


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