Rare bird calls Milang sanctuary its home

A Latham's snipe looking for food. Photo - Jerrabomberra Wetlands.
A Latham's snipe looking for food. Photo - Jerrabomberra Wetlands.

On the edge of Lake Alexandrina, Milang hosts a rare breed of bird which takes up residence in a small sanctuary in the middle of town.

To help the migratory bird continue to flourish in the area, the state government, the community and not-for-profit groups have got together to deliver up to 14 megalitres of water to inundate the unique feeding ground.

The Latham’s snipe is the largest snipe species in Australia and is the king of camouflage

The Latham’s snipe, also called the Japanese snipe (Gallinago hardwickii),  travels thousands of kilometres to Australia from Japan and East Asia to feed and escape the Northern Hemisphere winter.

Natural Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin wetlands management officer Kate Mason said the birds enjoyed feeding on tiny insects, worms and seeds of aquatic plants.

“If it’s a dry summer, the wetland dries up and the birds can no longer push their distinctively long bill into the mud and will need to move on,” Ms Mason said.

“It’s much better for snipe if they can spend most of their time feeding and not moving around looking for places to feed.”

She said migratory birds were one of the fastest declining group of birds because of a loss of habitat in Australia and Asia.

Birds that leave Australia in good condition will more likely be amongst the lucky ones and successfully breed, ensuring snipe will continue to return to Australia,” Ms Mason said.

“The fatter the better, these birds need to put on a lot of weight before they leave,” she said.

Pumping of the water has commenced which has inundated the low shrub and herblands for a trial.

Goolwa to Wellington Local Action Planning Association project manager Will Miles said the group had sought water from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder for the project and helped set up the pump and pipework.

The project is being coordinated by Natural Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin in partnership with Nature Foundation SA, the Goolwa to Wellington Local Action Planning Association Inc. with support from the Milang Old School House Community Centre.

It is supported by funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.