Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

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Kerang Wetlands


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

15 December 1982

Middle Lake is a permanent wetland (2002), Photo: Linda Selg

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6




9419 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:


Wetland type: 

  • 8 - Wastewater treatment areas; sewage farms, settling ponds, oxidation basins, etc.
  • O - Permanent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes large oxbow lakes
  • Q - Permanent saline/brackish/alkaline lakes
  • R - Seasonal/intermittent saline/brackish/alkaline lakes and flats
  • Tp - Permanent freshwater marshes/pools; ponds (below 8 ha), marshes and swamps on inorganic soils; with emergent vegetation water-logged for at least most of the growing season
  • Xf - Freshwater, tree-dominated wetlands; includes freshwater swamp forests, seasonally flooded forests, wooded swamps on inorganic soils

Key features of the site:

The Kerang Wetlands Ramsar site is located in northern Victoria, approximately 300 km north-west of Melbourne, on the floodplains associated with the Murray, Avoca and Loddon Rivers. The Ramsar site includes wetland types such as permanent open freshwater, deep freshwater marshes, tree-dominated wetlands, and permanent and semi-permanent saline wetlands.

More than 150 species of native plants have been recorded within the Kerang Wetlands Ramsar site. A range of vegetation communities are supported by the site, including black box, river red gum, tangled lignum, chenopod shrubland, grassland and reed beds. Tangled lignum provides shelter and nesting substrate for the Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) and straw-necked ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis), while cumbungi is used by the Eurasian coot (Fulica atra) and purple swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio).

Over 100 species of native fauna have been recorded, including 76 species of waterbirds. The site provides important feeding and breeding habitat for more than 50 waterbird species, many of which are protected under international migratory species agreements and treaties. Ten nationally and/or internationally listed threatened species have been recorded within the Kerang Wetlands Ramsar site: Australian painted snipe (Rostratula australis), Plains-wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus), regent honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia), grey falcon (Falco hypoleucos), growling grass frog (Litoria raniformis), flat-headed galaxias (Galaxias rostratus), Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii), Murray hardyhead (Craterocephalus fluviatilis), and Macquarie perch (Macquaria australasica) and silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus).

In the past, the Kerang Wetlands provided a reliable source of water and a rich and diverse supply of resources including food, medicines, shelter, clothing and tools for the Traditional Owner groups, Wamba Wamba and Barapa Barapa. There are many sites of Indigenous significance in the area including mounds, scarred trees, middens, burials, hearths, surface scatters and isolated artefacts.

The wetlands are currently used for a variety of purposes including irrigation supply, saline disposal, natural feature reserves and sewage treatment. The surrounding land is primarily used for agricultural industries including grazing, dairy, horticulture and cropping. Recreational activities include camping, fishing, boating and bird watching.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Kerang Wetlands Ramsar site meets six of the nine Ramsar criteria:

Criterion 1: The Kerang Wetlands Ramsar site represents a unique example of a wetland within the Murray-Darling Drainage biogeographical region, due to its system of diverse wetlands; five inland and one human-made Ramsar wetland types are represented. The 23 wetlands that make up the Ramsar site vary significantly in size (46 to 984 ha), maximum depths (1 to 8.4 m), salinity levels (fresh to hypersaline) and associations with surface water systems (i.e. Avoca River, Loddon River and Pyramid Creek) within the Murray-Darling Drainage Division. The Ramsar site also contains seven of the 27 wetlands within this drainage division that are more than 500 ha in size.

Criterion 2: The site supports ten fauna species that are listed as threatened at the national level (under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) and/or the international level (on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List): the Australian painted snipe, Plains wanderer, regent honeyeater, grey falcon, growling grass frog, flat-headed galaxias, Murray cod, Murray hardyhead, and Macquarie perch and silver perch.

Criterion 3: The Ramsar site provides habitat for a diverse range of waterbird species and is important for maintaining the biological diversity of the Murray-Darling Drainage Division. Over 76 waterbird species occur at the site. Between 1980 and 2003, 56 species were recorded at Lake Cullen alone. At the time the site was listed (1982), the largest colonies of Australian white ibis and straw-necked ibis recorded in Victoria were found within the Kerang region, with Middle Lake and Hird Swamp supporting large breeding events.

Criterion 4: The Ramsar site supports several species during the critical life stages of breeding, moulting and migration. For breeding, the site supports significant colonies of pelicans, cormorants, spoonbills and ibis. Migratory waterbirds that utilise the site include the eastern great egret (Ardea modesta), freckled duck (Stictonetta naevosa) and Latham's snipe (Gallinago hardwickii); migratory fish include the silver perch, Australian smelt (Retropinna semoni) and Murray cod. The site also supports Australian shelducks (Tadorna tadornoides) and musk ducks (Biziura lobata) during the moulting life stage. Finally, the larger and more open lakes within the Kerang Wetlands Ramsar site is known to function as a drought refuge for waterbirds.

Criterion 5: The Ramsar site regularly supports over 20 000 waterbirds, with this threshold being met on ten different occasions between 1980 and 2003. On at least five occasions (years), Lake Cullen alone has supported more than 20 000 waterbirds, with the highest number (over 250 000 waterbirds) occurring in 1987.

Criterion 6: The Kerang Wetlands Ramsar site regularly supports at least 1% of the population of the banded stilt (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus). Between 1982 and 2003, the 1% threshold for the banded stilt (2100 individuals) was met on four occasions (years).

Please see the More Information page for additional information on this Ramsar site and access to the Ramsar Information sheets and other associated site documents.