Another Great Pelican Count

Results are in and, on a sunny Sunday In April, around 100 humans recorded 1,135 pelicans in 30 minutes for the annual Gippsland Lakes Great Pelican Count.

Citizen scientists gathered at 77 locations to raise their binoculars for the environment recording 476 more pelicans than in 2021 and 500 more than the previous count held in 2019. (The 2020 event
was postponed due to COVID-19.)

Of this total, 75% of pelicans were roosting, 10% were moving and 15% were noted to be foraging or scavenging for food.

BirdLife Australia Project Coordinator, Deb Sullivan said: “We are delighted with the 2022 participation and results. Recent wet weather has meant that there has been more fish to be had and have provided
great feeding and breeding conditions for the pelicans.

“It’s an important 30 minutes of the year as the results provide a ‘pelican snapshot’ and contributes to the larger, ongoing pelican monitoring and protection program across the Lakes.

“The event is definitely not stand alone, the wonderful citizen scientists help build the bigger picture of pelican population dynamics that ultimately leads to understanding better ways to manage and
protect them.

“It’s also about simply getting out, being together and enjoying the Lakes and its incredible landscapes and wildlife.

“There were people of all ages counting on the day including staff from East Gippsland and West Gippsland Catchment Management Authorities. Also, for the first time this year, residents of Mallacoota
participated in the count and I thank everyone for their enthusiasm.”

Across the year, Deb and her team place bands on the pelicans across the year to track their movements and activity with 37 young birds being tagged so far this year. The team is also able to track
the birds in real time with satellite trackers and the team are planning to deploy ten more tracking devices onto adults and juveniles in the near future. The devices emit a signal every ten minutes.

“This year, two red and white coloured leg banded pelicans were recorded during the count. This is the colour unique to the Gippsland Lakes with green and white bands being the colour that is unique
to Western Port and Port Phillip bays. It’s not only interesting to know where Pelicans go, but it helps us understand their behaviour better, the habitats they like to use, and improve management practices for the future of the species.”

Bands and trackers have recorded birds from the Lakes at locations such as Batemans Bay and Eden. More commonly though, the birds appear to stay in their own territorial areas and home ranges proving
that pelicans, like humans, love our lakes.

Although the count is over, you can be a pelican citizen scientist all year round by recording any pelicans with coloured leg bands you see noting the date, time, location of your sighting and note
if the pelicans were alone or how many other birds they were with – a photo from your phone is also perfect. Submit any sightings to or on the ‘Love Our Pelicans’ Facebook page set up to follow project research, share stories, photos, and report sightings of banded pelicans. Search for “Love our Pelicans” on Facebook to join.

The Gippsland Lakes Great Pelican Count is an initiative of BirdLife Australia supported by East and West Gippsland catchment management authorities.

This program is funded as part of the Victorian Government’s $248 million investment over four years (2020-2024) to improve the health of waterways and catchments across regional

Victoria and made possible through $7.5 million to support the Gippsland Lakes Coordinating Committee and deliver onground works and community engagement.

Pip Masters, Alison Green and Max Elliot
Pip Masters, Alison Green and Max Elliot counting pelicans