Grace Maglio –


Rangelands managed for pastoral use can enhance biodiversity and complement neighbouring ecosystems. One remarkable bird that thrives across these pastoral properties in northern Australia is the Oriental Pratincole. This species holds the distinction of being Australia’s most numerous migratory shorebird, with an astounding estimated population of 2.88 million birds recorded in 2004 at Eighty Mile Beach/Anna Plains Station.This insectivorous, grassland species has adapted well to modified pastoral land use and irrigated agriculture throughout its migratory path. From around November to March, these birds navigate the Australian landscape coinciding with the northern Australian wet season, demonstrating an ability to track locust and other insect booms in coastal and inland areas. In some instances, they congregate in immense flocks, further highlighting their role as an ecological tool in controlling agricultural pests and facilitating nutrient cycling.


The Oriental Pratincole (also known as the Grasshopper Bird, Swallow-plover, Rain Bird and Stormbird)


Despite their impressive numbers, the movements of the Oriental Pratincole during their time in Australia, outside of Broome/Eighty Mile Beach are poorly known. The vast and remote nature of habitats in northern Australia poses a significant challenge in tracking their whereabouts. It is highly likely that the agricultural community holds invaluable insights into the movement patterns of this species.

In response to this knowledge gap, a collaborative project has been set in motion, asking landowners and managers in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Northern Territory, Outback, and northern Queensland regions, to report sightings of the Oriental Pratincole by filling out and submitting a simple survey (Survey Link Here).

A pilot study conducted in early 2023 represents the first step in consolidating both existing and new information.

In addition to movement data, the project aims to further define the habitats and prey species favoured by the Oriental Pratincole. By raising awareness among pastoralists, station workers, traditional owners, and indigenous rangers, it is hoped the data collected will not only advance our understanding of the Oriental Pratincole’s ecology and distribution but also help understand the role this species may have in the protection of valuable pasture and crops from pest insects.

We would love to hear about any observations you have had of Oriental Pratincole, current and historical sightings welcome.

All participants completing the survey will be in a draw to win a $100 voucher from Kent Saddlery (5 vouchers to be won)

This project was supported by Rangelands NRM through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and Birdlife Australia, Key Biodiversity Area Program, Kent Saddlery and Kimberley Kolors, the Broome printing company.