Understand shorebirds needs

Shorebird Identification Guide (photographs and descriptions)

  1. Identify our shorebirds  
  2. Discover where they live
  3. Understand their needs 
  4. Help them to survive
  5. Back to Pumicestone Passage Shorebirds  


Shorebirds feed at low tide, regardless of whether it is day or night, exploring inter-tidal mudflats, beaches, rocky shorelines and along margins of freshwater wetlands for insects, worms and small crustaceans.

Bill shape, size and length are highly variable and determine their diet. Surface feeders typically have large eyes, short bills and feed by running and pecking, whereas probing feeders have smaller eyes, longer bills with sensitive tips and feed by probing deep into sand, mud or water.

It is therefore crucial to maintain healthy populations of their prey species at all substrate levels.

Greater Sand Plovers
Greater Sand Plovers
Image: R Inglis

Incoming tides

As the incoming tide covers these feeding areas, shorebirds congregate at roost sites, typically open areas such as beaches and claypans, often in large numbers. These sites provide areas where they can rest, preen and digest their food while waiting for the ebbing tide to expose their feeding areas once more.

Undisturbed roost sites near to feeding grounds are essential, and these must be sufficiently exposed to enable birds to be forewarned of any imminent danger from predators or people. Disturbance can be particularly harmful during the highest tides, when shorebirds are forced to roost at the few sites that have not been inundated.

Prior to northern migration, shorebirds must feed vigorously and increase their body weight by about 70%, accumulating fat under the skin and increasing the size of their muscles. This additional weight is essential for them to gain sufficient energy and strength for the long journey ahead.

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