News & Events

May 04, 2023

Australasian Ornithological Conference 28-30 November 2023

BirdLife Australia and Birds New Zealand are pleased to announce that registration for the AOC2023 is now open. The conference is being held at the Brisbane Convention Centre between November 28 and 30.

As part of the conference proceedings, there will be a symposium on shorebirds. This session will be focusing on improving our understanding and mitigating threats to migratory shorebirds at deteriorating habitats in the EAAF. More details on conference symposia are available online.

Please submit your abstracts now via the conference website.

March 24, 2023

Chinese Red-necked Stint captured at Stockyard Point

The VWSG headed out to Stockyard Point on February 23 to conduct a catch aimed at collection of percentage juvenile data from Red-necked Stint and Curlew Sandpipers. All Curlew Sandpipers captured were fully processed, as was a sub-sample of Red-necked Stint.

The highlights were the capture of a Little Stint and a chinese-flagged Red-necked Stint. The Red-necked Stint was banded by Forestry Resource Monitoring Center at Xinpu, Cixi City, Zhejiang Province China on 19 May 2018. The stint had black over white colour flags and a blue flag below the metal band on the upper leg. This was a very exciting outcome for the team as the VWSG rarely catch overseas birds.

One geolocator was also retrieved and a Broad-billed Sandpiper seen in the field.

Chinese banded Red-necked Stint (Photo Karen Yi Lam Kam)
Little Stint (Photo Thomas Verzonden)

March 20, 2023

The role of waders as hosts for low pathogenic avian influenza

The VWSG has supported a significant and long-term study that demonstrates the role of waders as hosts for low pathogenic avian influenza.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (or bird flu) is gaining substantial media attention as a result of the profound impact that this virus is having on wild and domestic birds. The bird flu that is being reported is just one strain of many, the vast majority of which cause no disease and are commonly found in wild birds. These strains are termed low pathogenic.

Through a decade of sample collection, Prof Marcel Klaassen and Dr. Michelle Wille have demonstrated the role of waders in the ecology of these low pathogenic avian influenza viruses. Marcel and Michelle are a common sight at catches in Victoria, and often join expeditions including King Island, South Australia and Broome to collect blood samples and swabs for their research. They show that the long distance migratory waders rather than endemic waders are the most frequently infected with low pathogenic avian influenza viruses. The highest prevalence is found in Ruddy Turnstones and Red-necked Stints; Sanderlings by contrast are almost never infected with the virus. This is supported with antibody data from blood samples. Based on patterns of virus prevalence, they also found that the genetic relationships between bird species (here, inferred through phylogenetics) explains why some species have high prevalence and others have low prevalence.

The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences

March 13, 2023

No evidence of HPAI emergence in Australia in 2020

The global panzootic of highly pathogenic avian influenza (or bird flu) continues, and has thus far resulted in the death or destruction of half a billion domestic birds. This virus is now present on every continent, with the exception of Australia and Antarctica.

With the support of the VWSG, Prof Marcel Klaassen and Dr. Michelle Wille report no evidence that bird flu arrived in Australia between September and December 2022 with the arrival of waders. Approximately 600 waders were sampled in Broome and King Island during this period, all of which tested negative. Their results were outlined in a short report in the journal Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses.

Australia will again enter a high-risk period coinciding with the return of waders between September and December 2023, and the VWSG will once again support Prof Klaassen and Dr. Wille in their sampling efforts.

November 30, 2022

Warning against handling sick birds

Wildlife Health Australia has issued a warning notice with risk management advice for bird banders, wildlife rangers and researchers about High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza and Wild Birds. Expert advice from our our research members, Michelle Wille and Marcel Klaassen, was important to formulating this statement. Michelle and Marcel have also provided more information about avian influenza, which appears in the latest volume of the bulletin.

If you see birds that are sick, please do not pick them up or handle them unless directed to do so. Please call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

You can find out more in this factsheet issued by Wildlife Health Australia.

November 02, 2022

New paper on primary moult strategies in adult waders

Clive Minton was a key person in the professional lives of both Colin Jackson and myself (Les Underhill). So we are delighted to honour his memory through this paper on moult, a topic that he was really enthusiastic about. He was a co-supervisor of both the PhD of Colin, and that of Yahkat Barshep (who did an expedition to Broome which he led). Paper is available via the this link: Primary moult strategies in adult migrant waders (Charadrii)


We assembled the results of moult studies for 57 populations of 24 species of migrant waders which moult in the period between their southward and northward migrations. We used studies in which the Underhill-Zucchini moult model had been used to estimate the duration of primary moult and its mean starting date. Study sites were between 70°N and 38°S. We created three zones: north of 30°N, between 30°N and 30°S, and south of 30°S. We found that north of 30°N, moult patterns were constrained by the onset of cold winter weather; the timing of moult was relatively early and the duration was short. Moult duration was positively correlated with body mass. South of 30°S, the main constraint on moult patterns was the relatively short period between arrival and departure on the non-breeding grounds. Generally, in this zone the timing of moult was similar for all species, and the duration of moult was extended to cover the time available, ca. 120 days. This is thought to be a strategy to enable the growth of good quality feathers, capable of enduring long migration distances. In this southern zone, there was no relation between moult duration and body mass. Between 30°N and 30°S, moult patterns were less constrained, and there was considerable variation in both timing and duration of moult. With little environmental seasonality and day length variation, local conditions are thought to influence both the timing and duration of moult. This exploratory meta-analysis reveals patterns, highlights data gaps, and suggests hypotheses for further research

October 04, 2022

New research sheds light on geographic patterns in shorebird size and shape

New research sheds light on geographic patterns in shorebird size and shape, thanks to long-term data collected by the Victorian Wader Study Group and Australasian Wader Studies Group.

We show that shorebirds from hot, tropical north-western Australia are smaller and have longer bills than members of the same species from temperate, south-eastern Australia. These patterns are consistent across 30 ecologically diverse species, including sandpipers, plovers, terns, stilts, and oystercatchers.
Differences in the size and shape of shorebirds from northern and southern Australia correspond with two eco-geographic ‘rules’ in ecology. Bergmann’s Rule states that animals should be larger at higher latitudes, while Allen’s Rule states that animals should have shorter appendages – such as bird bills – at higher latitudes. Understanding why latitudinal patterns in animal size and shape exist is challenging because there are many possible explanations.

Our findings best support the expectation that differences in shorebird size and shape are driven by adaption to keep cool on the northern Australian coast. This would explain why Arctic-breeding shorebirds that travel to northern Australia have smaller bodies and longer bills than members of the same species that fly to southern Australia. It also explains why we find consistent patterns in body size and bill length across migratory and resident shorebirds. Small bodies and long bills help birds keep cool by providing a greater surface area to dissipate heat. Longer bills are especially advantageous because birds can increase blood flow to the bill’s surface to increase heat loss.

This research helps improve our understanding of the evolution of shorebird size and shape, and how shorebirds might adapt to a warming climate.

Read the full story here:

July 19, 2022

Australasian Shorebird Conference online in 2022

The 12th Australasian Shorebird Conference will take place from 29-30 October 2022 hosted jointly by the Australasian Wader Studies Group and the Queensland Wader Studies Group. We are pleased to announce that the Conference will be an online event, in the hope of encouraging broad participation from around Australia and across the East Asian – Australasian Flyway Partnership.

The theme for this Conference is “Global Strategies Local Actions” and through the Conference program we will look at what has been happening across the East Asian – Australasian Flyway since the 11th Australasian Shorebird Conference held in 2018.

The call for abstracts for the Australasian Shorebird Conference 2022 is now open. You can submit an abstracts for an oral presentation (15-min talk, plus 5-min for questions), or an e-poster presentation. Abstracts can either be submitted under the following themes or as general submissions.

  • EAAF site network
  • Conservation and monitoring
  • Citizen science
  • Indigenous research, monitoring and conservation
  • Communicating shorebird science

All submissions will be considered for the program and program sessions will be determined on the basis of submitted abstract themes.

Go to the Australasian Shorebird Conference website to find out more and submit your abstract.

July 09, 2022

Sanderling sightings from China

Several Sanderling tagged in South Australia and south-west Victoria in April 2022 have been sighted in China during the May field work season. Noteable resightings include LHL, BCE and BVM at Guangdong, and LEY at Wanbao beach, Shandong. LEY is the exciting observation having been first captured in April 2014 in Nene Valley.

BVM spotted at Green Point on April 29, 2022 in a flock of 400 sanderling. Photo courtesy of Maureen Christie

You can view Sanderling sightings on the BirdMark portal, where you can also submit your own sightings.

June 19, 2022

Queen’s Birthday Honours – Margaret Rowe and Terri Allen

Congratulations to Margaret Rowe and Terri Allen on receiving the Queen’s Birthday honours for their active contribution toward conservation and preserving the natural environment. Margaret is a long-term member of VWSG and Terri participated in VWSG field work activities in the 1990’s and 2000’s.

You can read more about their achievements on the ABC website.