Cape Gantheaume Banner

Murray Lagoon

Murray Lagoon covers almost 1000 hectares after flooding and is important for birdlife.

For a summary of the Murray Lagoon attractions and birdlife click HERE.

The lagoon has a number of locations where watching wetland birds in close proximity can occur. Click on the following links to find out about different areas of Murray Lagoon.

Timber Creek Walk Bald Hill Lookout
Murray Lagoon HQ Murray Lagoon West End
Curley Creek

Birds of Murray Lagoon

Murray Lagoon is an important home for bird life. It provides food and breeding space for over one hundred species of birds.Large numbers of ducks, swans and Cape Barren geese find the lagoon an important refuge when food is scarce.

The thickets of paperbark are essential shelter and a source of nesting material for many birds. Ibis nest in the thickets in large colonies. The shy clamorous reed-warbler and the Australian spotted crake shelter in these areas and are very difficult to spot.


Many birds breed at Murray Lagoon in the reeds and in the paperbarks during Spring. Some live as pairs or families. Others group themselves in large colonies.

Many pairs of sacred ibis build their nest on platforms near one another in the flooded paperbark thickets, often out in deeper water. You may see ibises probing for food in the lagoon shallows. They also search for insects in the nearby paddocks.

The lagoon is home to the unusual blue-billed duck. This species breeds here in the spring, building its nest from aquatic grasses in the fork of flooded paperbarks. This chestnut coloured duck has a low swimming profile and bright blue bill.

Musk duck are also common on Murray Lagoon. The male is distinguishable by the lobe beneath its beak. During breeding the male also has a bizarre splashing courtship display. The tails on the bird are stiff and upwardly pointing.

The marsh harrier is an important bird of prey that breeds here each year. Often it builds a nest at ground level in tall grass or reeds. You may see the marsh harrier flying low over the paperbark thickets hunting for sick or injured birds for food.

The Australian spotted crake is a small marsh bird with a narrow body and hen like appearance. Living in densely vegetated areas it is very shy and rarely seen. These birds quietly move amongst the vegetation. Observing one of these birds is very rare.

Numerous black swans can be seen on and around Murray Lagoon. You may be lucky enough to see the cygnets (up to 10) following their parents search for food around the lagoon. They build their nests on a mound of sticks on the lagoon floor so when the floods come the nests are not flooded.


Many birds come to Murray Lagoon seasonally. A large number of these are waders that wade in the shallow waters and wet mud to catch insects.

Red-necked avocets with their unique upwardly pointing beak can often be seen in the shallows sifting the water for invertebrates. These birds keep to shallow brackish water where their favorite food is found, brine shrimp.

Like the avocets the stilts are nomadic wanderers of Australia. They come to Murray Lagoon in search of insects. Banded and black-winged stilts can be found in the summer searching for aquatic insects in the shallows.

Remarkably some birds fly from the Northern Hemisphere just to feed on the mud flats of Murray Lagoon. Common greenshanks and sharp tailed sandpipers are two such species.

Many tiny waders can be found on the lagoon mudflats. What might look like one species of bird through close observations may turn into many different species. Birds to be particularly careful of include the red-necked stint, red-kneed dotterel, red-capped plover, double banded plover and other small waders. Keep a close look out as you may spot a rare sighting at Murray Lagoon.

The Clamorous reed-warbler migrates from northern Australia to breed here. It breeds in reed and bulrush beds where it binds several stems together. The nest is deep to prevent the eggs being blown out on windy days. These are shy birds and rarely seen.

Cape Barren Geese visit Murray Lagoon after breeding in Flinders Chase National Park. These birds were introduced to Kangaroo Island in 1923 and now the numbers are about 1000 on Kangaroo Island. Close monitoring of the population is occurring to ensure they do not become a pest to farming enterprises on Kangaroo Island.

Ways to Watch Birds 

  • Don’t watch. Listen! Shut your eyes and hear the calling of the many different birds.

  • Take photographs or make sketches of various species. Take particular notice of the beak (shape and color), the tail (shape and colour), the legs (length and colour) and the body (size and shape). These characteristics will help you or somebody else identify them.

  • See if you can tell what they are eating. Some birds feed on the mudflats, some in deeper water, some "dabble” and some are hunting other birds. 

  • Take a copy of the Murray Lagoon bird list and check off the birds you observe. If you see one that is not on the list report it to the next National Parks and Wildlife Office you visit.

For a Bird list specific for Murray lagoon developed by the Friends of Cape Gantheaume click HERE

Friends of Cape Gantheaume Activities

In summary the Friends of Cape Gantheaume have undertaken the following activities at Murray Lagoon-

To view further information on Murray Lagoon and the activities undertaken by the Friends of Cape Gantheuame click the links below.

Timber Creek Walk

Bald Hill Lookout

Murray Lagoon HQ

Murray Lagoon West End
Curley Creek