Emu

Boom for waterbirds at Barmah

Thursday 14 April, 2011
The prolonged flooding along the Murray River has created significant waterbird breeding at many sites along the river, including an extraordinary event in the Barmah–Millewa Forest, one of The Living Murray’s icon sites.  

The prolonged flooding along the Murray River has created significant waterbird breeding at many sites along the river, including an extraordinary event in the Barmah–Millewa Forest, one of The Living Murray’s icon sites.  

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority is the current Icon Site Manager for Barmah-Millewa area, a role which is rotated between Victoria and New South Wales annually.  

“This is such a special place and it has been wonderful to see the positive effects of the prolonged low level flooding on the environment” said Chris Norman, CEO of Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority and current Barmah-Millewa Forest Icon Site Manager.  

Keith Ward, Environmental Water Resources Officer with the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, said “the waterbird response has been significant because of the number of species involved but also because of the vast number of birds, with over 10,000 nesting pairs in some places.” 

“This is critically important for many species as it helps them rebound after one of the longest droughts in the region’s recorded history.” 

Monitoring in the Barmah–Millewa Icon site has shown that there have been many thousands of chicks from at least 29 waterbird species, including endangered species such great and intermediate egrets, brolgas and little bitterns.   

“The egret breeding is the best since 1974, and prior to that the 1930s and 40s’ said Keith. 

‘Many of the waterbird species have bred more than once which means that the forest is full of birds either building nests, laying eggs or taking their first flights.” 

As the floods start to subside, breeding conditions for waterbirds will decline. At the most important waterbird breeding locations within the Barmah–Millewa Forest, environmental water has been used to reduce the rate that the waters recede. This will help chicks to fledge and leave the nest.  

However, some birds, which have just started to breed again, may abandon their nests as the waters recede. It is now too late in the season to use more environmental water to extend their breeding as cooler temperatures mean that there may not be enough food available to support the young birds.     

“This is part of the natural boom and bust cycle of many Australian ecosystems, with other species likely to benefit from the receding floods”, said Keith Ward.

"The drying floodplain will promote the growth of different plants, and ultimately provide a diverse wetland system with a broad range of floodplain plants and animals.” 

In Victoria, Barmah National Park is managed jointly by Parks Victoria and the Yorta Yorta people who are the Traditional Owners of the area. In NSW, the Murray Valley National Park is managed by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. The managers of the new national parks are working collaboratively with the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment and the NSW Office of Water, as well as catchment management authorities, to maximise the ecological benefits arising from the prolonged flooding.   

The Living Murray is a joint initiative funded by the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australia, Australian Capital Territory and Commonwealth governments, coordinated by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority.

Photos are available in high resolution upon request.

For further information please contact:

Amanda McClaren
Communications and Marketing Manager 
t: 03 5820 1117 / 0459 023 640 e: amandam@gbcma.vic.gov.au