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Michaelmas Cay is a small coral sand island that forms part of a National Park along with Upolu Cay. These are located in the Great Barrier Reef 33kms east of Cairns. This site is of particular interest to birders due to the presence of thousands of nesting seabirds. The peak of the nesting season is in the Summer months.
The island is home to thousands of nesting Sooty Tern and Brown Noddy which make up the bulk of the birds present. The island is also home to smaller numbers of nesting Black Noddy, Brown Booby, Black-naped Tern, Greater Crested Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Bridled Tern, Caspian Tern and Silver Gull. Greater Frigatebird and Lesser Frigatebird are regularly seen over the island, sometimes in numbers. Ruddy Turnstone are usually present as are one or two Pacific Reef Egret. Masked Booby, Roseate Tern, White-tailed Tropicbird and Skuas are infrequent visitors.
Two long-staying Red-footed Booby were present around the Cay in 2014. They were often observed on moored boats and pontoons just offshore.
Birds you can see here include:
History and Use
The National Park was created in 1975 to protect the two Cays. The area is also a designated Sensitive Location due to its special nature conservation value. The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area surrounds the site. Access is by boat.
Indigenous land rights enable local indigenous people to access the site and its resources.
Access and Facilities
There are no facilities on the cay. Access is restricted to certain times of the day and of the year to help protect this sensitive site. Several operators based in Cairns offer regular, often daily trips to the cay to observe the wildlife and snorkel or dive here or at nearby reef sites as part of a tourist package. These trips are booked in advance. The Seastar is a boat that offers daily trips to Michaelmas Cay and caters specially for birders.
Visitors are allowed to land on the cay but are restricted to a roped off area of beach on one side of the island. From here, it is possible to observe nesting Terns, Noddies and Boobies from just a few metres away. The Seastar also circumnavigates the island in a smaller boat especially for birders, as some species are more readily observed on the far side of the island.