5 birds you’re likely to spot at Adelaide’s bird sanctuary

Thousands of migratory shorebirds are now visiting Adelaide’s northern coastline. Here are the top five you’ll see.

About 27,000 international frequent flyers settle in at Adelaide’s International Bird Sanctuary each year between October and April to feed and roost along Adelaide’s rich northern coastline.

The grey, brown and white compact theme of these migratory shorebirds may seem boring to some. But these birds cover record-breaking distances annually, they navigate instinctively with the help of the earth's magnetic field, and they know how to conserve energy by bulking up and going on a feeding frenzy known as hyperphagia.

So pack the binoculars, spotting scope and a good quality camera and head down to Adelaide’s bird sanctuary.

Here are five popular migratory shorebirds that you’ll spot, and where in the sanctuary you’re likely to find them:

1. Red knot

This little dude breeds in the high Arctic and then migrates south to Australia to chill in the heat. Red knots are speedy on foot, but you can spot them eating day and night by the tide.

Sightings of the red knot have been recorded at Light Beach and Thompson Beach.

(Image courtesy of Chris Steeles)
(Image courtesy of Chris Steeles)

2. Red-necked stint

This short-legged mottled-looking bird nests in the Siberian tundra, then migrates south, usually stopping off at the Yellow Sea, before continuing to Australia.

Sightings of the red-necked stint have been recorded at Dry Creek and Thompson Beach.


3. Ruddy turnstone

This tortoiseshell-coloured shorebird with orange legs breeds on the northern coasts of Europe, Asia and North America and then migrates around the coast of Australia.

Sightings of the ruddy turnstone have been recorded at Thompson Beach.


4. Grey plover

The grey plover, with its big beautiful eyes, nests in the Arctic where they are known as a black-bellied plover. It’s only the females who are regular summer migrants to Australia.

Sightings of the grey plover have been recorded at Port Prime and Thompson Beach. If you’re interested in learning more about this bird’s annual journey, read our post.


5. Eastern curlew

You’re right – this long-billed fella is not that common. It’s actually listed as critically endangered in Australia, but is well known to frequent Adelaide’s northern coastline after breeding in Russia and north-eastern China.

Sightings of the Eastern curlew, who is the largest of all the world’s shorebirds, have been recorded at Thompson Beach.


The Adelaide Shorebird Festival is on at the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary throughout November to celebrate its stint as Park of the Month. There’s lots of fun activities in store, so check the website for all the details.

If you’d prefer to go your own way, read up on what else you can do when you get there and the best spots for birdspotting.

Main image: Red knot at Thompson Beach (image courtesy of Chris Steeles)

This story has been updated with new photo of the Eastern Curlew.

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