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Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve

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Learn more about why this park is special

Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve is a special place. Here are just some of the reasons why:

Love nest

Wedge-tailed shearwater mutton bird in underground nest, Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve. Photo: Rosie Nicolai/OEH

The island is home to thousands of wedge-tailed shearwaters, so called for their ability to cut or shear the water with their wings as they skim across the surface. Early settlers called them muttonbirds because of their fatty mutton-like flesh. The birds spend the Australian winter in southeast Asia, travelling back to Muttonbird Island in August each year. Amazingly, the birds return to the same burrow every year. A pair of birds share the responsibility of keeping one single egg warm and then share the raising of their chick. During the day they forage for food and return to their burrow just after dusk. They depart on their annual migration in late April every year.

  • Eastern Side lookout The Eastern Side lookout offers spectacular views of the Solitary Islands. A short walk from the carpark, it’s a great place for whale watching in the heart of Coffs Harbour.
  • Muttonbirds by moonlight Muttonbirds by moonlight is a Stage 6 (Years 11-12) school excursion at Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve, which covers geography as a KLA. Experience a guided walk across the island as evening falls, ...
  • Muttonbirds by moonlight Muttonbirds by moonlight is a Stage 2 (Years 3-4) school excursion in Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve, focusing on HSIE. Join us on a guided walk across the island as evening falls, and keep an eye o...
  • The Rookery Roundabout The Rookery Roundabout is a school excursion for Stage 1 (Years 1-2) students in Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve which focuses on HSIE as a KLA. Join us on a guided walk across Muttonbird Island, and...

What we're doing for Biodiversity in this park

Giidany Miirlarl

Aboriginal Discovery ranger, Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve. Photo: Rob Cleary

Muttonbird Island is a sacred and significant site to the local Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal people, who call the island Giidany Miirlarl, meaning moon sacred place. The moon is the island's protector, guarding the muttonbirds as a food source and protecting them from over-harvesting. The island was also a ceremonial site. Find out more about the cultural significance of Gumbaynggirr Country, taste bush tucker foods and learn about traditional uses of plants for medicine and shelter on a guided tour with one of the Aboriginal Discovery Rangers.

  • Giidany Miirlarl: A special site Giidany Miirlarl a special site is a school excursion in Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve for Stage 3 (Years 5-6) students focusing on science and technology. Aboriginal Discovery rangers will introdu...
  • Giidany Miirlarl: A special site This Stage 2 (Years 3-4) school excursion in Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve focuses on HSIE. Aboriginal Discovery rangers will introduce students to the cultural significance of Giidany Miirlarl (mo...
  • Giidany Miirlarl: A special site This school excursion in Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve is for Stage 2 (Years 3-4) students and focuses on Science as a KLA. Aboriginal Discovery rangers will introduce students to the cultural sign...
  • Muttonbird Island Outdoor learning space Explore Aboriginal history and hear Dreamtime stories of Giidany Miirlarl, also known as Muttonbird Island on a guided tour with an Aboriginal Discovery ranger.

What we're doing for Aboriginal culture in this park

Divers delight

Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve. Photo: Rob Cleary/Seen Australia

Muttonbird Island marks the southern boundary of the Solitary Islands Marine Park. The marine park protects coral reefs, mangroves, sea-grass beds, rockpools and river estuaries. It's a diver's paradise, a place where fish species from the tropical north and temperate south mingle among the reefs.

  • Eastern Side lookout The Eastern Side lookout offers spectacular views of the Solitary Islands. A short walk from the carpark, it’s a great place for whale watching in the heart of Coffs Harbour.

Plants and animals you may see

Animals

  • Australian pelican. Photo: Rob Cleary

    Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus)

    The curious pelican is Australia’s largest flying bird and has the longest bill of any bird in the world. These Australian birds are found throughout Australian waterways and the pelican uses its throat pouch to trawl for fish. Pelicans breed all year round, congregating in large colonies on secluded beaches and islands.

Look out for...

Australian pelican

Pelecanus conspicillatus

Australian pelican. Photo: Rob Cleary

The curious pelican is Australia’s largest flying bird and has the longest bill of any bird in the world. These Australian birds are found throughout Australian waterways and the pelican uses its throat pouch to trawl for fish. Pelicans breed all year round, congregating in large colonies on secluded beaches and islands.

Education resources (1)

School excursions (6)

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View of the marina, Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve. Photo: Rob Cleary