Lake Brewster pelican banding

A joint NSW OEH, UNSW and WaterNSW project.

Have you seen a pelican with an orange leg band?

Then, we want to hear from you!

Pelicans from Lake Brewster, in the Murray-Darling Basin, have been banded as part of a research project to learn more about their movements.

You can play a part in this research project by reporting your sightings via email to peli.bands@environment.nsw.gov.au.

Lake Brewster pelicans

Lake Brewster, in the Lachlan River catchment, is an important site for pelicans. It is one of the few sites in the Murray Darling Basin where pelicans breed in large numbers (more than 5,000 nests) on a semi-regular basis.  Pelicans have nested at Lake Brewster since 1984 when records were first kept.  In recent years the size of the pelican colonies has increased to about 8,000 birds in the summera of 2016-2017. WaterNSW who manage water storages and delivery in the Lachlan valley, and NSW OEH who manage the environmental watering program, have been working together to enable the waterbird breeding events which occur at the lake to complete successfully. 

After prolonged flooding in the Lachlan River catchment in 2016, pelicans bred at several locations in the Lake.

Pelican banding

One important factor of pelican ecology that is poorly understood is whether pelicans return to the site where they hatched.  This is known as natal site fidelity. If pelicans do show strong natal site fidelity this would mean their choice of new nesting sites would be very limited – making protection and management of existing sites even more important.

In May 2017, 66 juvenile pelicans were banded with uniquely numbered orange leg bands. In March-April 2018, a further 77 birds were banded following another successful breeding event. Most recently 245 birds were banded after a large breeding event in summer 2022. These bands will stay on for approximately 10-15 years and help us keep track of movements – whether they revisit Lake Brewster or other wetlands.

Reports of banded birds have been coming in. The furthest confirmed sighting to date is an orange-banded pelican near Noosa in Queensland. Each report of a banded bird sighted adds a vitally important clue that adds to our knowledge and ability to conserve pelicans. 

Lake Brewster

Lake Brewster was originally a natural ephemeral wetland which was developed in the 1950s into a secondary storage to re-regulate the delivery of water to the lower Lachlan. More recently, work has been undertaken to restore wetland habitats in the lake.

Gayini pelicans

An additional study site was added to the pelican project in February 2022 when 49 young pelicans from a large pelican colony in the Gayini wetlands were banded with individually numbered blue colour bands. 

The Gayini wetlands are located in the Lower Murrumbidgee and are managed by the Nari Nari Tribal Council. An estimated 12,000 pelicans were recorded nesting in the wetlands from December 2021 onwards. This is only the second time a large pelican colony has been recorded in the Lower Murrumbidgee Valley. 

Reporting sightings

If you see a pelican with a coloured leg band please email  peli.bands@environment.nsw.gov.au.

Information to include in your email:

  • date and time of sighting
  • a photograph of the banded bird (if possible)
  • the colour and number on the colour band and metal leg band (if you can see it)
  • the location of your sighting (a GPS point or nearby locality will help)
  • the context - if the bird was alone or with a group
  • the bird’s behaviour – feeding, flying etc
  • condition of the bird – healthy, unwell or deceased.

If you find a coloured leg band but no bird, we would also like to hear from you.

In our project we are using orange leg bands for young pelicans at Lake Brewster and blue bands for young pelicans in the Gayini Wetlands. 

We can also pass on records to fellow researchers using red leg bands for pelicans in Gippsland Lakes and green leg bands in Westernport Bay, Victoria.