North Victorian Wetlands

Country/territory: Australia

IBA Criteria met: A1, A4i (2009)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 6,028 ha

Protection status:

BirdLife Australia
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2019 high unfavourable high
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
The North Victorian Wetlands IBA is located approximately 300 km north west of Melbourne and are part of an extensive wetland system of over 100 wetlands in the Loddon-Murray Region. The IBA is defined as the series of individual wetlands which have supported significant numbers of birds (defined here as at least 0.25% of the world population of a species for which the IBA has supported 1% of the world population) in recent years (defined here as since the last ‘wet’ year in 1993): Round Lake (Wildlife Reserve; Blue-billed Duck), Middle Lake (Water Supply Reserve; Grey Teal and nesting ibis), Reedy Lake (Water Supply Reserve; Straw-necked Ibis), Lake Bael Bael (Red-necked Avocet), Lake Cullen (Water Supply Reserve; many species), Lake Tutchewop (Salinity Disposal Reserve; Red-necked Avocet, Banded Stilt), Lake Meran (= Lake Meering; Red-necked Avocet), Lake Kelly (Salinity Disposal Reserve; Banded Stilt), Lake Murphy (Freckled Duck), Hird Swamp (east and west; 344 ha wildlife reserve; Australasian Bittern, Australian Painted Snipe), Johnsons Swamp (411 ha wildife reserve; Australasian Bittern) and Kow Swamp (2724 ha irrigation storage; Australasian Bittern). The majority of the lakes are regulated and linked to the irrigation system. Those regulated wetlands which receive Environmental Water Allocations (Lake Cullen, Hird and Johnsons Swamps) can also receive floodwaters that are manipulated through the irrigation system and delivered via the channel system. Many wetlands are significantly affected by soil salinity through land clearance and irrigation practices which have resulted in raised groundwater levels. Changes in hydrology have resulted in most of the irrigated land being underlain by highly saline watertables. Introduced Eurasian Carp have greatly reduced numbers of waterbirds in many permanent wetlands. All except Round and Kow are in the 9419 ha Ramsar site which covers 22 wetlands; the additional wetlands which are excluded from the IBA because they either never supported significant numbers of birds or because they have declined in value since listing because of reduced freshwater inflows and/or increased salinity are: First Marsh, Second Marsh, Third Marsh, Stevenson Swamp (State Wildlife Reserves), Third Lake, Little Lake Charm, Lake Charm, Racecourse Lake and Kangaroo Lake (Water Supply Reserves), Lake William (Salinity Disposal Reserve), Tragowel Swamp and another three unnamed wetlands on Crown Land. Historically, the Avoca floodway, other floodplains and other small wetlands were of global significance for birds, including Australian Painted Snipe, but these areas have not been included in the IBA as they have flooded very irregularly, and with decreasing regularity, in recent years, with the last ‘wet’ year in 1993. Total counts of waterbirds across much of the Ramsar site were regularly over 20,000 in the ‘wet’ years, with peaks of 299,000 in 1987 and 107,000 in 1993, but no higher than 22,000 (in 2002) subsequently (DSE 2006). Bird counts before 1994 are listed in the notes above but not in the maximum figures for the species. The declining value of these wetlands has been summarised by Corrick and Cowling (1975), Lugg (1989) and DSE (2006). Many wetlands currently excluded from the IBA may qualify for inclusion in times of good rainfall, including Lake Charm, Golf Course Lake, Lake Elizabeth, Lake Gilmour, Lake Leaghur, Lake William (historical counts of up to 3000 Banded Stilt [DEWHA 2008]), Lake Yando, Lake Boort (with recent records of Australasian Bittern and Blue-billed Ducks; S. Starr in litt. 2007), First, Second and Third Marshes (23,479 waterbirds in 1985; DSE 2006), Stevenson Swamp, Back Swamp, Town Swamp, Cemetery Swamp, Fosters Swamp, and the saline Lake William (one old high count of Banded Stilt; 7929 waterbirds in 1987; DSE 2006).

Key biodiversity
Counts from individual wetlands suggest that Grey Teal numbers could approach or exceed threshold: maximum counts in recent years include 9000 at Lake Cullen and 7075 at Hird Swamp (DSE 2006); there are also large historical counts of 17,000 at Lake Bael Bael in 1977, 85,000 at Lake Cullen in 1987 (DSE 2006) and 80,000 (of a total 113,000 waterbirds) at Middle Lake in 1988 (Lugg 1989). Similarly, individual wetlands have supported large numbers of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper: maximum counts in recent years include 1500 at Lake Tutchewop in 2004, 400 at Lake Kelly and 600 at Hird Swamp in 2005, and 400 at Lake Murphy in 2006 (S. Starr in litt. 2007); there is also a historical count of 8000 at Lake Cullen in 1987 (DSE 2006) and an observation of large numbers at the Avoca floodway in spring 2005 (S. Starr in litt. 2007). Several Australian Little Bitterns have been recorded calling and breeding at Hird Swamp when wet. Species counts which are of regional significance include: Australian Shelduck (8000 at Lake Cullen and 4500 at Lake Bael Bael dates unknown; 5000 at Lake Cullen in 1987), Australasian Shoveler (2400 at Lake Cullen date unknown), Australian White Ibis (6000 on Hird Swamp in 1993 and 5000 at Middle Lake in 1991 and an estimated 10,000 at Hird Swamp and 15,000 at Middle Lake in 1979-80), Hoary-headed Grebe (6500 at Lake Cullen date unknown and 1000+ in 2004 and 2006 at Lake Tutchewop), Eurasian Coot (35,000 on Lake Cullen in 1987), Whiskered Tern (6000 on Lake Cullen in 1987), Black Swan (8000 on Lake Cullen in 1993), Pacific Black Duck (1100 at Lake Cullen, 3000 at Hird Swamp and 2000 at Johnsons Swamp dates unknown), Pink-eared Duck (5000 on Lake Cullen in 1987 and 1992), Double-banded Plover (109 at Pyramid Saltworks in 1995), Red-kneed Dotterel (usually in small numbers but 1000+ at Lake Tutchewop in 1983 and perhaps 1000 at Hird Swamp in 2002), Red-capped Plover (1338 in 1982 and 500 at Lake Tutchewop in 2004), Marsh Sandpiper (200 at Cullens Lake and Lake Kelly 1994, 1997 and 2005), Red-necked Stint (800 at Lake Tutchewop in 2004) and Black-winged Stilt (up to 1000 at Lakes Meran and Tutchewop and many hundreds at many other lakes) (Robinson 1984; DSE 2006; S. Starr in litt. 2007; DEWHA 2008; AWSG database). A high historical count of 50,000 Hardhead on Third Marsh and Kangaroo Lake in 1975 and 436 Freckled Duck at Third Marsh in 1985 (DSE 2006). Australian Painted Snipe breed in the IBA with up to 13 recorded at Hird Swamp in recent years (S. Starr in litt. 2007).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: North Victorian Wetlands. Downloaded from on 17/01/2021.