Turtles & Birds
A protected habitat for a stunning variety of wildlife
At Heron Island, you’ll sense early on that you are very much a guest of the natural environment. An amazing array of animal life can be discovered throughout the year, and you’re here to enjoy it, to learn from it, and to be a part of it.
Heron Island is a significant nesting location for two vulnerable turtle species, the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta).
In order to not disrupt their habitat or nesting habits, strict guidelines are in place for the viewing of nesting and hatching turtles, beginning each year around November. The little hatchlings look vulnerable because they are, especially when it comes to light. They use light horizons to navigate out to sea. If bright artificial light is present, they will get confused and may head toward it instead of the ocean. They can become lost inland and waste what little energy they have trying to find their way.
Turtles can be found simply by walking along Heron Beach one or two hours after the evening’s high tide. Look for the tracks in the sand where the turtle has come in from the sea. Follow these simple pointers to make sure both you and the turtles have a great experience:
- Light can disturb and disorient the turtles, so minimise the use of torches and be sure to only use 3-volt low-impact torches. No flash photography, please.
- When you see a turtle moving up or down the beach, stay still. Excessive movement can disturb her. Never walk in front of a turtle. Instead, walk behind her.
- If the turtles feel threatened or disturbed, they will turn around and head back out to sea, and will not lay their eggs. Please keep a safe distance at all times.
- If you come upon a turtle while digging, give her plenty of room. You may sit down quietly behind the turtle, at least 10 metres away. A girl needs her privacy. Once she has finished digging, wait at least 15 minutes, and then you may approach her from behind.
- The turtles can be quite stressed and tired after their night's work, so again, give her some room (10 metres) so as not to panic her.
Through all but a few months, Heron Island is a breeding and nesting sanctuary for a variety of birds. The island hosts primarily the Black Noddy Terns (Anous minutus), Wedgetailed Shearwaters (Puffinus pacificus) and Eastern Reef Egrets. In certain months, up to 100,000 birds flock to the island. Depending on the time of your visit, you’ll see a variety of adult birds, and potentially witness as young birds emerge from their burrows.
Bird nesting holes are protected with covering boards, as the nests are often found in the middle of a trail or path. If you come across a covered or uncovered nesting hole, please do not tamper with the hole, which can disrupt the hatching process and disturb the nesting birds.
Please refer to our Nature Diary for a full month-by-month overview of turtle, bird and other wildlife seasons on the island.
Unlike many destination resorts where you’ll have to travel far from your accommodation in order to explore nature, Heron Island offers a relaxing retreat for both humans and natural wildlife. Explore some of the other island activities or book your stay now.