Bird Life of Westernport

Situated just over an hour’s drive south-east of Melbourne, Western Port supports so many species of waterbirds and migratory shorebirds it has been listed as a Ramsar-listed site of international importance. Western Port’s waterbirds have been counted regularly since 1973 as part of the BOCA Western Port Survey, and that tradition continues in our Waterbirds in Western Port project. It is one of the longest-running surveys in our project portfolio.

Focusing on the sheltered sections of Western Port where there are extensive mudflats (including French Island and the north-eastern shores of Phillip Island), the survey gathers data on the various waterbirds that occur in the bay — shorebirds (waders), ducks, swans, grebes, herons, egrets, ibis and spoonbills.

Results from the project have confirmed just how vital Western Port is for waterbirds. Some of the findings include:

  • Western Port is especially important for species that favour mangrove-lined coasts, including larger shorebirds
  • Numbers of waterbirds in the bay are not static, fluctuating seasonally and between years
  • Inland-breeding waterbirds (such as the Grey Teal) leave Western Port when inland areas experience good rains, but then return in large numbers after they have bred
  • Numbers of a few species are generally increasing (e.g. Australian Pied Oystercatcher and Bar-tailed Godwit), but more have declined (e.g. various cormorants, Grey-tailed Tattler, Eastern Curlew and Curlew Sandpiper). Declines in some of the migratory species probably reflect a loss of habitat elsewhere along their migration route.

Get Involved

Since 1973, many volunteers have been introduced to waterbirds and the art of counting them through the Waterbirds in Western Port project. Are you interested in being one of them? If so contact

Here is a link for teachers of Environmental Studies to a study kit on Westernport.

Please visit Birdlife Australia for more information at Birdlife Australia

Photo by Lisa Schoenberg

Photo by Lisa Schoenberg