Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant (WTP) in Werribee has temporarily become home to an American Gold Plover, the first to ever be recorded in Victoria.

A long way from its usual breeding ground of the Alaskan tundra, the shorebird’s breeding plumage has caught the attention of bird-watching enthusiasts who have visited the site to see the bird.

It is the first time the American Golden Plover has been recorded in Victoria and only the sixth time it’s been officially sighted in Australia. 

Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant Conservation and Land Officer, Cody McCormack, said, “Every year the WTP plays host to a variety of shorebirds that migrate from their breeding grounds in the Northern Hemisphere, like Siberia and Alaska and journey down the ‘East-Asian Australasian Flyway’ to spend the spring and summer feeding and roosting at WTP.

“Occasionally a bird on a separate migratory path, such as this American Golden Plover, will become lost and make its way down to Australia.” 

The American Golden Plover’s migration path is between Alaska and South American grasslands in Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil. 

“It’s hard to determine exactly how it made its way to WTP, but the most plausible theory is that the bird moved from western Alaska into Siberia and then made its journey southwards – eventually arriving at WTP. 

“Potentially, this American Golden Plover joined with a flock of Pacific Golden Plover – a similar species which uses the East-Asian Australasian Flyway and is recorded most years at WTP.” 

This sighting comes ahead of World Migratory Bird Day on 11 May. The focus of 2024 is on the importance of insects for migratory birds and to highlight concerns related to decreasing populations of insects.   

The nutrient-rich water released into Port Phillip Bay after going through the treatment process feeds the organisms in the sand which attracts the migratory shorebirds as a plentiful food source and in this case, is readying the American Golden Plover for its next long-haul flight.  

“Given the bird is looking healthy and in its full breeding colours, it seems to be gearing up to attempt a migration back up north to begin the breeding season.

“Although in a foreign country, given the migratory route is of about the same length and trajectory as its normal migration through the Americas, there is hope the bird will be able to make its way back home.” 

The Western Treatment Plant’s variety of natural habitats provide a refuge for wildlife, including some of the world’s rarest bird and frog species – such as the critically-endangered, orange-bellied parrot and growling grass frog. As well as this, orange-bellied parrots have started to arrive from Tasmania. 

Image credit: Jukka Jantunen/

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