With the Queensland school holidays starting next week, beach visitors are asked to steer clear of nesting shorebirds.

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Pest Management Officer Lisa Wellman said that threatened Pied Oystercatchers are currently nesting at a range of sites throughout the Northern Rivers region.

“Pied Oystercatchers (pictured) are currently sitting on nests at Brunswick Heads Nature Reserve, Belongil Beach, South Ballina, Bundjalung National Park and Rabbit Island in the Clarence Estuary,” Ms Wellman said.

“While it is natural to want to enjoy the beach in the holidays, beach users can help by keeping a wide berth from the birds, allowing them to breed undisturbed.

“Protecting the Pied Oystercatchers in our area is now even more vital as the bird, which was classified as a vulnerable species, has been recently upgraded to endangered.

“A survey in 2003 found only 129 Pied Oystercatchers between Ballina and Sawtell, while a repeat in the same area in 2005 found 112. The North Coast is the birds’ main habitat, with fewer than 40 breeding pairs found south of Sydney.

“The birds are easily disturbed and if they leave their nests, the eggs cook quickly in the sun.”

NPWS Clarence Area Ranger Steve Hodgson said that three Pied Oystercatcher pairs were currently nesting on Rabbit Island.

“The Clarence Estuary islands are a significant habitat for shorebirds, because they are generally free of feral predators such as foxes and cats,” Mr Hodgson said.

“We will be continuing to monitor for foxes throughout the breeding season and, if necessary, will bait the island.

“We would like to ask people boating on the Clarence to steer clear of Rabbit Island throughout the breeding season. The co-operation of boaties in avoiding disturbance to shorebirds on the beach is crucial to their survival. Signs have been put in place to alert people to the breeding shorebirds.

“Last year two young Pied Oystercatchers fledged on Rabbit Island, adding to the Statewide population of this endangered bird.”