Thousands of Birds Descend Upon Inland Lakes - Planet Ark Environmental Foundation

Thousands of Birds Descend Upon Inland Lakes

By Laura Chalk  April 13th, 2017

Flooded rivers and lakes create new haven for water birds prompting rare migration.


Exceptionally heavy summer rains and the floods that consequently ensued have wreaked havoc on properties and roads in Australia. Many still continue the clean-up effort after the wet onslaught. 

One positive and astonishing result of the deluge is a phenomenon that has occurred throughout parts of the country: normally coastal birds have flocked en masse to vast inland lakes that have suddenly formed.

Thousands of pelicans have flocked to a series of islands in the middle of a remote inland lake in Central New South Wales. In interviews with the ABC, locals say it is the first time in more than a decade that they have witnessed this magnitude of birdlife at Lake Brewster, especially given the pelicans are normally coastal-dwellers. “It’s one of those things that probably only happens once every 10 or 20 years”, said a local farmer, Mal Carnegie. 

Along the tract of desert spanning the East Pilbara in Western Australia to the Northern Territory boarder, the salt pans have filled to the highest level in over 30 years.

Staff from Parks and Wildlife and the Indigenous Desert Alliance surveyed the area by plane. What they found was very positive, with nests and even newly-hatched chicks spotted in most places. 

Gareth Catt, an Alliance spokesman, said they found colonies of tens of thousands of birds in some places. On one island, Mr Catt estimated there were 90,000 of the illusive banded stilts. The Alliance knows the bird spends most of its time on the coast, and travel inland immediately as rain starts to fall - in expectation of lake formation, which is a desirable breeding ground for many types of birds.

Researches from Deakin University who have been tracking the banded silts movements for years, said the nomadic bird has been known to fly as much as 2,200 km in two nights to reach the inland breeding spot following rain.  

One thing that seems to elude experts, however, is exactly how the birds know to fly to these areas at the right time. 

While decades have passed since an avian phenomenon of this magnitude, Catt says the likelihood of it happening again soon is increasing. “With climate change, the north-western desert is starting to get more frequent rain events over the summer.” Mr Catt said in an interview with the ABC. “So the interval between these big rain events is getting shorter and it could be that the desert becomes a bit more green in the future.” 

Positive Actions

  • Has any new and possibly rare life sprouted in your area, after extreme weather? By getting out and about, we can notice the changes, some dramatic, some subtle, in the natural world around us. This increases our engagement with and appreciation for the environment in our area, and can lead to caring for it better
  • Spend time in nature. Research proves that time in nature improves our happiness, health, relationships and learning. Read more here


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By Laura Chalk

Laura joined Planet Ark in 2016. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience having travelled the world and a background in teaching English as a second language among other things.

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