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Duck shooting in South Australia: 2018-19 historical note

Life in the air

“It probably goes without saying that it is startling that the shooting of waterbirds occurs at all in the driest state in Australia, wetlands are indeed precious”. Peter Hylands

Peter and Andrea Hylands

February 27, 2024

Birdlife is attracted to the Coorong during migration and native species may arrive here because of the circumstances surrounding breeding and climatic conditions in other parts of Australia.

Bird species that visit or live in the national park and surrounding coastal and wetland areas, include the Royal Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Banded Stilt, Curlew Sandpiper, Red- necked Avocet, Red-necked Stint, Pacific Black Duck, Black Swan, Australian Pelican, Great Egret, Common Greenshank, Australian Wood Duck, Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and the Pink-eared Duck.

Duck shooting

Activities in areas on and surrounding Ramsar sites include major scale hunting of a range of duck species and Quail and this is a very significant concern, particularly given the dwindling birdlife in Australia and the extreme climatic conditions that are further endangering bird populations.

We feel particularly sorry for the long distance commuters such as the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and the now critically endangered Eastern Curlew, which travel all the way to and back from Siberia or Alaska each year, each of their feeding and resting places on these vast journeys, at ever-greater risk.

Ramsar sites

The driest state in the driest inhabited continent, South Australia, has six of Australia’s 66 Ramsar sites:

  • Coorong – Lake Albert and Lake Alexandrina – Murray mouth surrounds, 140,500 hectares;
  • Bool and Hacks Lagoons – near Naracoorte, 3,200 hectares;
  • Riverland – Murray River country includes a range of wetland types, 30,600 hectares;
  • Coongie Lakes, near Innamincka, Cooper Creek floodplain, 1.9 million hectares;
  • Piccaninnie Ponds Karst Wetlands, near Mount Gambier, 862 hectares; and
  • Banrock Station Wetlands (privately owned property), 1,375 hectares.

Locations and dates

The hunting of waterbirds in South Australia occurs from February through to June (described as a short season) each year. In 2018 the duck hunting season in South Australia began on 17 February and ended on 24 June.

Locations where duck shooting could occur were the Mud Islands game reserve covering ten islands at the southern side of Lake Alexandrina (Coorong), Bool Lagoon near Naracoorte, Bucks Lake Game Reserve (originally a National Park and now reclassified) to the south west of Mount Gambier, Poocher Swamp with its dead River Red Gums to the west of Border Town, Loch Luna and Moorook Game Reserves East of Kingston on Murray, Tolderol Game Reserve on the north western side of Lake Alexandrina, Lake Robe Game Reserve just to the south of Robe, Currency Creek Game Reserve on the western side of Lake Alexandrina and Chowilla Game Reserve at the Murray River Riverland Biosphere Reserve, Chowilla is ‘recognised as a Riverland Wetland of international importance and declared under the Ramsar Convention’ (recognised by whom we wonder? Clearly not the South Australian Government).

It probably goes without saying that it is startling that the shooting of waterbirds occurs at all in the driest state in Australia, wetlands are indeed precious, and it is even more startling how cunningly integrated with the state’s declared Ramsar Sites many of these hunting sites are and many are large. Apart from the great suffering of the birdlife there are many rare species in these ‘shelter’ wetlands.

In the past the hunting season extended from as early as December and during the breeding season. This meant that young birds were left to starve in their nests because the adult birds had been shot. This is precisely what now occurs in New South Wales where the hunting is on private land.

Unprotected species 2018

Unprotected species during hunting season: In 2018 the duck season in South Australia began on 17 February and ended on 24 June. Some species were removed because of ‘population decline’. The Quail season ran from 17 February to 26 August.

  • Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata
  • Grey Teal Anas gracilis
  • Chestnut Teal Anas castanea
  • Pink-eared Duck Malacorhynchus membranaceus
  • Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa
  • Australian Shelduck Tadorna tadornoides
  • Blue-winged Shoveler (removed recent seasons) Anas rhynchotis
  • Hardhead (removed recent seasons) Aythya australis
  • Stubble Quail Coturnix pectoralis