HERE in the Great Lakes Marine Park, we tend to think of pelicans as coastal birds.
They soar above waterways and through the sparkling waters of our rivers and bays.
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Yet these prehistoric-looking birds are also inhabitants of inland lakes.
More than 25,000 pelicans will soon take flight after two major pelican breeding events in interior New South Wales.
Pelican nests have been counted at Lake Brewster in the Lachlan Valley and at Lake Kieeta in the Murrumbidgee Valley, with waterfowl only recorded once in Lake Kieeta, after the 2016 floods.
Environment Minister James Griffin said the mega breeding event coincided with a wet year, dozens of full lakes and abundant fish stocks, creating excellent conditions for the season.
“These breeding events are extremely important to help boost waterfowl populations, which have been affected by recent droughts,” Griffin said.
“We are working with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to keep water levels stable and give pelicans the best chance of breeding success.
“We are also seeing pelicans flocking to Lake Kieeta, thanks to a four-year NSW Government project to return irrigated farmland to a more natural state, allowing water to reach wetlands.”
The Nari Nari Tribal Council, the indigenous owners of Lake Kieeta, played a key role in the success of the breeding season due to significant environmental water management and wild pests.
The pelicans at both sites are part of a leg banding research project by the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) New South Wales and the University of New South Wales , which tracks how far birds have traveled and whether they return to the site to breed.
“This research provides important information that helps us understand the migration patterns and behaviors of these iconic birds.
“For example, in the past banded birds have been spotted in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland,” Griffin said.
While traveling, it will be useful for research if residents of Port Stephens and Myall Lakes report any banded pelicans they see.
Sightings of banded pelicans can be reported via [email protected].
A study suggests that Australian pelican populations have declined in southeastern Australia.
The study found that Australian pelicans move distances of up to 3206 km and cover the entire geographic range of the species, within a year of fledging.
By Marianne Samson