Collective effort helps bird breeding at Narran Lakes

Dept of Climate Change, Energy, Environment & Water

To help maintain bird breeding conditions at the Dharriwaa (also known as Narran Lakes), the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder has entered into an arrangement to release water from private on farm storages into the wetland via the Narran River.

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Dr Simon Banks said waterbird breeding is underway for the second year in a row at the internationally significant Narran Lakes Ramsar site.

“This is a really important breeding event at Dharriwaa given the decline in waterbirds population across the Basin since the 1980s. It is rare to have the chance to support waterbird breeding events two years in a row,” Dr Banks said.

Recent monitoring at Dharriwaa estimates more than 20,000 nests of various waterbird species including straw-necked ibis, royal spoonbills, glossy ibis, egrets, cormorants, Australian Darters, Yellow-billed spoonbills and pelicans.

This is also the first time pelicans have bred at the Lakes since the late 1990s, one of only four inland sites in the Murray-Darling Basin where pelicans are known to breed.

“Waterbird breeding events at Dharriwaa rely on nature’s triggers of high and sustained river flows. Now the flows are drying up and water levels are receding, the additional water being delivered under this arrangement will reduce the risk of nest and chick abandonment and enhance breeding success,” Dr Banks said.

“We expect between 3 GL and up to 7.5 gigalitres of water will be released from Eastern Australia Agriculture’s storages. The final volume will depend on weather and catchment conditions. This water will help maintain preferable conditions around the nests until late March to allow the birds to raise their chicks.

“This arrangement is an innovative way of getting water to where and when it is needed most and builds on the collective efforts of the community, industry and government to build resilience in the ecosystem after lengthy years of drought.”

Dr Kate Brandis, Freshwater Ecologist from the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science, said this water will maintain critically important conditions at Narran Lakes.

“These additional flows will assist in providing good quality wetland habitat for longer, allowing birds currently nesting there to raise their young with adequate food resources. Maintaining habitat at Narran Lakes now will help support Australia’s waterbirds into the future,” Dr Brandis said.

Jacqui Frail, Narran Lakes Nature Reserve Joint Management Committee member said it was great to see lots of bird life.

“We would love to see the birds complete their breeding, it’s only the second opportunity they have had over the last 10 years,” Ms Frail said.

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