Migratory Shorebirds

What the flock are migratory shorebirds?

Shorebirds are the world's most endangered group of bird species.

Commonly referred to as waders, they are most often seen wading around wetlands, mudflats and intertidal areas to feed.

In Australia, there are more than 50 species of shorebirds and most of them are migratory.

Incubation male bar-tailed godwit
Incubating male Bar-tailed Godwit
Every year, instinct drives millions of shorebirds on an epic flight of 12,000 kilometres from Australia to breeding grounds on the insect-rich, mossy plains of the Arctic Tundra.

They follow a bird migration highway known as the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. There are 8 global Flyways in the world and the EAAF is the most species-rich and abundant with 6 million waders estimated to use the route annually.
EAAF Migration Map
The smallest shorebird species to undertake this journey, the Red-necked Stint, weighs only as much as a Tim Tam – about 25g – and can fly up to 5000 kilometres in one go.
Black and white cartoon comparing the size of a Red-necked Stint to a Tim Tam biscuit
Equally impressive, is the Bar-tailed Godwit, which holds the world record for the longest non-stop flight ever recorded for any bird species. One female godwit was tracked crossing the Pacific Ocean on migration from Alaska to NZ on a continuous flight that stretched 12,000kms over 9 days.
Bar-tailed godwit

Prior to migration, shorebirds gorge themselves on worms, shellfish and other invertebrates they find in the mud to build up vital stores of fat and protein. In doing so, some shorebird species almost double their body weight! 

Shorebirds are long-lived and a by the time a Bar-tailed Godwit is 15 years of age, it will have flown the equivalent distance

from the earth to the moon

300000 km

on migration alone.

Migratory shorebirds are a living expression of how we're all connected through a global, ecological network.

As they wing their way on migration, their path is a thread that links over



From the shorebird's perspective,
my backyard is equal to your backyard.

Taking care of the wetlands is important, not just for the shorebirds but for everyone on the Flyway because we rely on these places for our health and wellbeing too.

Peatlands store 30% of land-based carbon
Wetland biodiversity matters for the climate
Coral reefs and mangroves shield coastlines
Wetland biodiversity matters for storm protection
Wetlands remove pollutants
Wetland biodiversity matters for clean water
Over 1 billion people make a living from wetlands
Wetland biodiversity matters for jobs
Wetlands absorb and store water
Wetland biodiversity matters for water supply
Wetlands attract people for recreation
Wetland biodiversity matters for tourism
Previous slide
Next slide

Wetlands provide us with US$47 Trillion in ecosystem services every year.

Over half of the migratory shorebird species that visit Australia are experiencing population declines.

Up to

over the past 30 years for species like the Curlew Sandpiper and the Eastern Curlew.
0 %
A Curlew sandpiper feeding in shallow water
Curlew Sandpiper - listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List

To help shorebird populations recover, we need to overcome some big challenges.

Habitat loss

Reclamation or modification of wetlands for industry, houses and farming reduces the amount of habitat available for shorebirds to roost and feed.


Shorebirds are hunted for food in some East Asian-Australasian Flyway countries due to low-income, food security and cultural traditions.

Climate change

Rising sea levels and changing temperatures are resulting in habitat loss, increased rates of nest predation and shifting cycles of food availability for shorebirds.


Many of the shellfish species shorebirds eat are also eaten by people. Fishermen in parts of south-east Asia rely on harvesting these species to support their livelihoods.

Finding sustainable solutions for shorebirds and humans to live alongside each other is key.

And it begins with understanding the relationships humans have with migratory shorebirds and the wetland habitats we all rely on.

It is my dream that one day shorebirds like the Red-necked Stint and Bar-tailed Godwit will be as well known as the panda, orangutan and blue whale and deemed as worthy of protection.

Cartoon Bar-tailed Godwit and Red-necked Stint jumping for joy

So we need to tell everyone why...

Shorebirds are awesome!

Will you help spread the shorebird word?

Share Wing Threads with a teacher you know!

Image credits: