The Great Pelican Count wraps up for another year

More than 100 people across 81 locations, took part in the Gippsland Lakes Great Pelican Count on Sunday, 18 April.  

BirdLife Australia Project Coordinator, Deb Sullivan said weather had delayed the count for a week. 

“We were scheduled to host the count on Sunday, 11 April – but the weather was so bad that it was unsafe to send boats out to survey some sites,” explained Deb. 

“This would have resulted in an incomplete data set – and our counters would not have enjoyed their time on land either! Fortunately, we were able to reschedule most participants and call on a team of others that love our Gippsland Lakes Pelicans.     

“We’re still waiting on some of our survey forms, but at this stage there were more than 530 pelicans spotted in the half hour time slot, this is a decrease on the numbers recorded in the Pelican Count in 2019,” said Deb.  

“Unfortunately, last year’s count was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions in place at the time. This left a critical gap in our understanding of their population across the Gippsland Lakes through drought conditions. 

“This year, we were also sighting banded birds. There are more than 50 banded birds with red and white bands on their legs. Sightings of these pelicans are extra special as it helps us track the movements of individual birds. 

“We’ve had a number of sightings of Gippsland Lakes Pelicans outside of the Lakes – one was recently spotted at Tweed Heads; we’ve had another sighted at Port Stephens, NSW and another at the port in Brisbane. 

“On two of these occasions, we’ve only received reports of the band – identified by the colour only – and to date we have been unable to get the number.  

“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.” 

Although the Great Pelican Count has wrapped up for 2021, you can still help out this iconic species. For Pelican lovers a Facebook Group has been 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 will be on again next year on the first Sunday of April. 

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