Breeding birds create one of Nature’s wonders

When torrential tropical rains drenched parts of northern Queensland earlierthis year, wilflife-watchers in Central Australia looked on in anticipation,because they knew that the floodwaters had to flow somewhere — towards LakeEyre.

Lake Eyre, in north-eastern South Australia, is situated in one of the mostarid parts of the continent, but every few years, floodwaters originating inthe tropics flow across the deserts, bubbling along channels and creeks in aslow journey, with Lake Eyre the destination. And it is a slow journey, as ithas taken a couple of months for the water to reach the lake. (Previous floodshave taken up to 10 months to get there.)

And not far behind the floodwater, a bevy of waterbirds is expected to floodin too.

The most well known of these is the Australian Pelican, which gathers in hugecolonies on the islands formed in the newly inundated lake to lay their eggsand raise their young. Most of these birds will have flown in from coastalareas around the country.

Although pelicans tend to hog the limelight at times like this, plenty ofother waterbirds also flock to Lake Eyre to breed — ducks, swans, BandedStilts, Silver Gulls and terns may all travel huge distances to gather to takeadvantage of the conditions.

Nobody understands how they discover that the lake is flooded, but howeverthey find out, they may fly for hundreds or maybe even thousands of kilometresto get there.

Other birds that usually occur in the region are also likely to take advantageof the moisture in this usually parched landscape to breed. In the typicalboom-and-bust cycle that typifies the inland, Budgerigars, Zebra Finches and ahost of other arid-habitat birds will breed, building their populations, whichwill gradually decline again when the good conditions have passed.

Lake Eyre is usually a destination for many tourists during times of flood,and, with so many birds there now and more expected to come in, it’s a greatplace for birdwatchers to experience one of Nature’s wonders.


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