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Journal of BirdLife Australia

Distribution and status of the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) in South Australia

T. E. Dennis
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5 Bell Court, Encounter Bay, SA 5211, Australia. Email:

Emu 107(4) 294-299
Submitted: 25 January 2007  Accepted: 3 October 2007   Published: 7 December 2007


The breeding population of Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) in South Australia was estimated at ~52 pairs in 2005. These were sparsely distributed (one pair/30.1 km of coastline) from the eastern Bunda Cliffs in the west of the state, to Kangaroo Island in the east, with most of the population on western and southern Eyre Peninsula in the Great Australian Bight region. Most nests were constructed on broken sections of coastal cliff and near-shore rock-stacks, with a small number on man-made structures and one active nest in a tree. The population is geographically isolated, with the westernmost territory in South Australia ~1000 km from the nearest known breeding sites to the west, in Western Australia, the nearest population to the east is in north-eastern New South Wales, >1500 km distant. There is evidence for an overall population decline in South Australia as only historical breeding records were found for upper Spencer Gulf and for the Murray River indicating a substantial reduction in range. In addition, some nesting sites on Eyre Peninsula and Kangaroo Island are considered vulnerable to disturbance from unmanaged coastal recreation and the encroachment of residential and tourism development.

Additional keywords: accessible nest sites, coastal development, geographic isolation, population decline, vulnerable to disturbance.


I thank the many people who have contributed in some way to this project over many years: P. Horton and I. Mason, for access to the oological records of the South Australian Museum (Adelaide) and Australian National Wildlife Collection (CSIRO, Canberra) respectively; G. Carpenter, for assistance with South Australian Ornithological Association records; D. Drynan for access to banding data from the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (Department of Environment and Water Resources, Canberra); Birds Australia (Melbourne) for access to data from the Nest Record Scheme. I also thank the following for their valued field observations from coastal regions around South Australia: in the Great Australian Bight – S. Burnell, D. Mount, S. Clarke, I. Hart, C. Zwick; Eyre Peninsula – L. Bebbington, R. Minnican, V. Scholz, J. Jolly, C. Gill, D. Storey, T. Whibley, P. Needle; Thorny Passage, Neptune and Gambier Islands – J. van Weenen, P. Marchant, D. Jordan, A. Strydon; Spencer Gulf – P. Langdon, G. Tonkin, I. May; Yorke Peninsula and Gulf St Vincent – I. Falkenberg, R. Brooks, C. Johnson, M. Waterman, K. Treloar, P. Taylor, M. Ayre, T. Collins, E. Lawley; Kangaroo Island – C. Baxter, C. Bald, W. Lashmar, M. Schulz, N. Birks, A. Walker, M. Berris, L. Pedler, M. Munday; Murray River – D. Barrington, R. Goodfellow, P. Waanders, M. Harper.

I also particularly thank: the South Australian Department for Environment and Heritage for logistical support; The International Osprey Foundation; Kangaroo Island Sealink Pty Ltd; the Kangaroo Island Natural Resource Management Board; Roy Dennis (Scotland) and Peter Shaughnessy for encouragement and constructive comments on early drafts, and the anonymous reviewers who considerably improved the final manuscript; and to Helen Dennis for editing skills and tireless support.


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