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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 2008

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.

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 

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

Other biodiversity The site supports world-class stands of Phragmites and Lignum.

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.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Narran Wetlands. Downloaded from on 29/08/2014

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