North Keppel Island – a paradise on the Great Barrier Reef

North Keppel Island (627ha) is part of Keppel Bay Islands National Park located 11 kms off the Capricorn Coast and is surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef.  It has an environment education centre that is operated by the Queensland Department of Education and Training to provide education about terrestrial and marine ecosystems to students from Queensland schools.  School groups visit the island for a period of five days throughout school terms.

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BirdLife Capricornia has been visiting the island on an annual basis since 2013 to conduct an island wide bird survey.  The results are channeled in to the education centre curriculum so that students know what bird species can be found on the island, which habitats they are likely to visit and their function in pollination, spreading seeds, controlling insects etc. 

Each year a group of around 20 BirdLife Capricorn members spend one or two nights on the island, splitting into three teams to survey three separate circuits around the island.  The results of the survey are compiled into a summary that details the number of species, abundance of each species, any threatened species, locations each species is found and breeding activity.  The most recent survey was conducted in July 2017 with 24 members attending.

The total number of species identified on the island is currently 105 and that list has been compiled from visits to the island by attendees at the 1924 BirdLife Congress and Campout, BOCA in 1976, the Cruden family in 1977/8 and BirdLife Capricornia 2013 to 2017.

The island has a rich history with the Woppaburra people having an occupation of the island that has been dated as old as 5,000 years.  Obviously their knowledge of the birds on the island and in the marine area around the island would have been very extensive but unfortunately that knowledge has been lost.

Today we are trying to re-build that knowledge so that it can be shared with future generations and create an appreciation of how ecosystems operate and the important role that birds play in keeping these ecosystems healthy.

Allan Briggs 

capricornia@birdlife.org.au