email a friend
printable version
Location Australia, New South Wales (and ACT)
Central coordinates 147o 23.36' East  29o 47.70' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i
Area 22,439 ha
Altitude 120 - 130m
Year of IBA assessment 2009

BirdLife Australia

Summary The Narran Lakes support exceptional numbers of nesting waterbirds when water conditions are suitable. This includes the largest current colony of Straw-necked Ibis (up to 200,000 pairs), more than 1% of the world population of Australian Pelican and Black-fronted Dotterel and small numbers of the endangered Australasian Bittern.

Site description The IBA comprises the floodplain of three open water areas, Clear Lake, Back Lake (and Long Arm) in the north and Narran Lake in the south, which are connected by expanses of vegetation subject to inundation. The Narran floodplain wetland complex is a terminal system of the Narran River in the Condamine-Balonne Catchment River, in the central north of NSW between Walgett and Brewarrina, in the Murray-Darling Basin. The wetland supports extensive dense stands of Meuhlenbeckia florulenta with, in places, an overstorey of Eucalyptus camaldulensis and/or Acacia stenophylla, which together comprise the main substrate on which the waterbird breeding colonies form and which require regular inundation for their survival. They are all at risk because of the reduced incidence of inundation because of extraction of water upstream of the wetland for agriculture. A small natural flood in 2008 was extended to allow successful nesting of ibis, by the purchase of 11,000 ML of water from upstream irrigation storages. This was the first breeding event since 1999/2000. The surrounding district is part of the semi-arid pastoral zone and is used mainly for sheep and cattle grazing. The average annual rainfall is 495 mm.

Key Biodiversity Fifty-seven species of waterbirds have been recorded from the wetlands of which 36 have been recorded breeding. Large numbers of Pied Cormorant (up to 1500), Little Black Cormorant (up to 5000), Freckled Duck (up to 200), Black Swan (up to 3200), Pink-eared Duck (up to 6000), Great Cormorant (up to 800), Glossy Ibis (up to 1323), Whiskered Tern (up to 1200) and Royal Spoonbill (up to 7000) have been recorded (Ley 1988; (Atlas of Australian Birds database). 50-150 pairs of Royal Spoonbills, 50-100 pairs darter and smaller numbers of other waterbirds nested in 2007/8 (Terrill 2008). Other species of national or state conservation concern include Magpie Goose, Blue-billed Duck, Brolga, Latham's Snipe, Grey Falcon, Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Barking Owl and White-throated Treecreeper. 400,000 Straw-necked Ibis were reported in 1983 (Lindsey 1985).

Non-bird biodiversity: The site supports world-class stands of Phragmites and Lignum.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis resident  1996-1997  2,500-200,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus unknown  2008  uncommon  A1  Endangered 
Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus resident  1993  400-13,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Black-fronted Dotterel Elseyornis melanops resident  1993  30-300 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2008 high not assessed not assessed
Medium - based upon reliable but incomplete / partially representative data

Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of surface water (unknown use) happening now whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration high

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Narran Lake Nature Reserve 14,674 protected area contains site 5,538  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Ephemeral  100%

Land ownership Leasehold properties (Narran Lake and Rosscommon Stations) and the NPWS.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major
rangeland/pastureland major
Notes: Cattle grazing

Protection status Narran Lake Nature Reserve.

Acknowledgements NPWS have supported the waterbird counts, including use of a plane for aerial counts. Nomination prepared Andrew Ley, BANNG, with contributions from Roger Jaensch (of Wetlands International), Richard Kingsford, Narrabri NPWS, Rosscommon and Narran Lake (Kia-ora) Stations and Freshwater CRC.

References Brooker, M.G. (1993) Aerial counts of waterbirds on Narran Lake, New South Wales. Australian Bird Watcher 15, 13-18.

Ley, A.J. (1998a) Waterbirds at Narran Lake Nature Reserve, New South Wales, in 1996. Australian Bird Watcher 17, 219-233.

Ley, A.J. (1998b) The response of waterbirds to the 1997 flood in the Narran Lake Nature Reserve, New South Wales. Australian Bird Watcher 17, 337-341.

Ley, A.J. (2003) Birds of Narran Lake Nature Reserve, New South Wales. Australian Field Ornithology 20, 38-54.

Lindsey, T.R. (1985) New South Wales bird report for 1983. Australian Birds 19: 65-100.

Terrill, P. (2008) Narran Lakes Colonial Waterbird Breeding 2008. Unpublished report. Dubbo, NSW: DECC.

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Narran Wetlands. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife