Michaelmas Cay is a large and stable coral sand island with a grassy area over 200 metres long, it is permanently above water and able to withstand cyclones (hurricanes) and very strong winds with rough seas. Little wonder why it is such a popular nesting and breeding location while also one of the most important breeding locations on the Great Barrier Reef.

Seastar Cruises began operating to Michaelmas and the Great Barrier Reef in 1956. During this time the 4 boats that have cruised under the name Seastar have all enjoyed a first-rate reputation with ornithologists worldwide.
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Most Commonly Viewed Species

SpeciesNumbersWhere Observed
Greater Frigatebird< 20 sightedHigh in the sky or sitting on driftwood on the cay
Lesser Frigatebird< 20 sightedHigh in the sky or sitting on driftwood on the cay
Silver Gull< 100 sightedStalking chicks on the beach or staying by boats
Common Noddy1000's sightedOn the beach and flying low over water
Black Noddy<100 sightedOn the beach amongst Common Noddies
Brown Booby50-200 sightedOn the beach and flying at sea
Sooty Tern1000's sightedOn the beach and flying over water
Black –naped tern< 100 sightedNear peak of cay and on Glass Bottom Boat
Ruddy Turnstone< 20 sightedNear water’s edge on beach
Little Tern< 50 sightedAt end of island and on Glass Bottom Boat
Crested Tern1000's sightedOn the beach and flying over water
Lesser Crested Tern1000's sightedOn the beach and flying over water
Bridled Tern100's sightedOn marker floats and flying over water
Gull-billed Tern< 20 sightedFlying at sea
Caspian Tern< 50 sightedOn opposite side of island

Occassionally Viewed

SpeciesNumbersWhere Observed
White-tailed Tropicbird< 3 sightedFlying high over cay
Roseate Tern< 20 sightedOn opposite side of island
Masked Booby< 5 sightedOn the beach near grass or on Glass Bottom Boat
Red-footed Booby< 10 sightedOn end of island or on surface vessels off cay
Long-tailed Jaeger1 sightedFlying over cay
Curlew Sandpiper< 5 sightedOn opposite side of island
Reef Heron1 sightedOn beach near grass line
Reef Egret1 sightedOn beach near grass line
Southern Giant Petrel1 sightedSwimming at the back of Seastar
Pomarine Jaeger1 sightedSwooping down and attacking terns on island
Shearwater< 3 sightedFlying over water

Those species that were observed on the opposite side of the island were viewed from the Seastar tender on a special circumnavigation of the island (weather and tides permitting) and those observed on top of the Glass Bottom Boat at Hastings Reef were noticed resting there when the Seastar arrived.

Island grasses consist of hairy spinifex, sea purslane and stalky grass.

The cay is a major nesting island. Most commonly the breeding species observed are sooty terns, crested terns, lesser crested terns and common noddies. Occasionally silver gulls, ruddy turnstones, bridled terns, black-naped terns and roseate terns nest, while recently brown boobies have also been observed nesting. Nesting occurs all through the year with the sooty terns breeding every 8½ months and the others annually.

Bird images © Tony Neilson photography

We work alongside many birding societies around Australia and worldwide. Seastar provides them the opportunity of having close encounters with the birds in this beautiful sanctuary and our knowledgeable staff are always willing to share their knowledge about these amazing creatures.

If you want to know more about our partners you can visit their websites: