Port Phillip Bay’s Mud Islands has become Victoria’s most important breeding site for colonially breeding waterbirds like the Australian Pelican and the Victorian government is urging people to keep disturbance of the birds to a minimum.
Peter Menkhorst from the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s (DSE) Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI) was the first person to record pelicans breeding on Mud Islands in 1983 and has been monitoring the bird community on Mud Islands for 28 years. He has recently completed a survey of the 10 waterbird species that now breed there.
“Mud Islands have grown dramatically in importance as a waterbird breeding site over the past two decades with an estimated 95,000 pairs, belonging to 10 species, nesting on the islands in 2008 and 2009.
The most abundant species are the Straw-necked Ibis (with 56,000 nests) and the Silver Gull with perhaps 30,000 nests,” Mr Menkhorst said.
“When I first found pelicans breeding on Mud Islands there were only 10 nests, but the number of pelicans breeding in Port Phillip Bay has risen to around 800 pairs as the species becomes increasingly adapted to living in close proximity to humans.”
“The breeding pelicans are now using the islands for around 10 months of the year and, if possible, we’d like people to keep away from the breeding colonies and avoid disturbing the birds with boats or jet-skis.”
“Mud Islands are an amazing sight when the birds are breeding with thousands of birds sitting on nests which are built on the ground or in the low saltbush shrubs.”
“Many Victorians wouldn’t realise that this important bird breeding colony is right here in Port Phillip Bay.
We want to increase community awareness of this significant site and we want visitors to respect the needs of the breeding birds and to avoid causing them to leave their nests. Eggs or nestlings in unattended nests are vulnerable to being eaten by other species.”
“The islands are protected as part of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park.”
“The islands are also home to one of the biggest breeding colonies of Silver Gulls in the world as well as the biggest Victorian colonies of Australian White Ibis and Straw-necked Ibis.”
“They also host significant numbers of breeding Pied Cormorant, White-faced Storm-Petrel and Crested
Tern as well as smaller numbers of Royal Spoonbill, Caspian Tern and Little Egret. Over the past 20 years Mud Islands have also lost one species as a breeding resident with Fairy Tern no longer breeding there.
“Mud Islands are also nationally significant as a feeding and roosting site for migratory wading birds including the Grey Plover, Double-banded Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey-tailed Tattler, Ruddy Turnstone, Great Knot, Red Knot and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.”