Pelican Joins the Band for National Bird Week

Pelican 327 Banded 2022During National Bird Week, October 17-23 we celebrate the incredible diversity of birds that call the Gippsland Lakes home – including the Australian Pelicans that have been fitted with a leg band so researchers and citizen scientists can record movements and behaviour.

Birdlife Australia’s East Gippsland Conservation Coordinator Deb Sullivan conducts regular program surveys in the Gippsland Lakes’ internationally listed Ramsar site. These surveys also include regular banding and tracking activities of Australian Pelicans.

Placing leg bands on birds helps researchers track their movements with red and white coloured leg bands being unique to the Gippsland Lakes. A different colour scheme is used in the Westernport/Port Phillip district and also for NSW projects.

“Earlier this year we banded a number of young birds, some of those we now know have made their way into New South Wales,” said Deb, who has banded over 100 of the Lakes’ pelicans.

“One young bird was sighted in Narrabri where it was photographed and observed for a week at Narrabri Lake – 520 kilometres northwest of Sydney. This is the first of our pelicans banded in the Gippsland Lakes recorded to travel to an inland area,” said Deb.

“Others have been seen along the eastern coastal strip at places like Stockton Point, Eden, Tuncurry and South Moruya in NSW.”

“Sightings reported by citizen scientists are an important contribution to the research. It helps us build a better picture of the movement dynamic of the Pelicans – not just in the Gippsland Lakes but at a broader landscape level.”

“All of the NSW sightings were made by dedicated citizen scientists so, if you have relatives living interstate, please let them know to look out for banded Pelicans as they may be from the Lakes and information on their travels is really important. Without these reports we wouldn’t know where they were!”

“There has been a lot of rain in the past year and both coastal and inland pelican colonies have benefitted. There is so much water around everywhere they have more opportunities to disperse across the landscape rather than the drought years. You just never know where our birds are going to turn up!”

So, this National Bird Week, and all year round, take some time to count the pelicans in your Gippsland Lakes ‘backyard’ and play a part in conserving this iconic species.

Long distance travellers

How to help

  • Record any pelicans with coloured leg bands you see noting the date, time, location of your sighting, the band number and if the pelicans were alone or how many other birds they were with – a photo from your phone is also perfect.
  • Submit 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.
  • Take part in the annual Great Pelican Count held each year in April.


National Bird Week 2022 is a celebration run by BirdLife Australia in October each year and dates back over 120 years. The week aims to inspire Australians to take action and get involved in bird conservation efforts. Read more…