Scratching lyrebirds create forest firebreaks

In reducing fire risk, lyrebirds protect their favoured habitat of an open forest floor, say researchers (CSIRO)

In reducing fire risk, lyrebirds protect their favoured habitat of an open forest floor, say researchers (CSIRO)

Australia’s superb lyrebird clears litter and seedlings from the forest floor, reducing the likelihood and intensity of bushfires, new research suggests.

The birds’ activity also preserves their preferred habitat of an open forest floor, says fire ecologist, Dr Steve Leonard of La Trobe University .

“They’re reducing fuel by their foraging,” he says. “Our hypothesis is that they are protecting their favoured habitat – not necessarily consciously, but there’s a feedback going on.”

Lyrebirds have powerful legs with long toes and claws that make it easy for them to rake over dead leaves and soil in the search for insects, spiders, frogs, and other small invertebrates.

“They forage like chickens,” says Leonard.

By doing this, they mix litter into the soil, helping it to decompose quicker, and reducing the fuel load on the forest floor. Seedlings can also be uprooted in this process. Continue reading

Australian Birds Silver Coin Series Concludes with Splendid Fairy-Wren

The fifth and final release within the Perth Mint’s Birds of Australia coin series features the Splendid Fairy-Wren. The one-half ounce 99.9% fine silver coins have a limit mintage of 10,000 pieces.

These birds are widely distributed in southwest and inland southeast Australia and inhabit dense shrubs and woodlands where they hop and bounce among the undergrowth in search of insects. During the breeding season, the male moults into brilliant blue plumage. The mainly grey-brown female builds an oval domed nest in which to incubate her eggs. Other members of the group all help-out with feeding the chicks.

The reverse design of the coin is designed by Natasha Muhl and features colored depictions of the male of the species with blue breeding plumage and the gray-brown female amidst representations of Australian vegetation. The obverse features the Ian-Rank Broadley effigy of Queen Elizabeth II with inscriptions indicating the precious metal fineness and content, along with the “2013” date, and legal tender denomination.


Each coin is struck in one-half ounce of 99.9% silver to proof quality with a diameter is 36.60 mm and thickness of 2.30 mm. The coins are housed in a display case with a colored, illustrated shipper and numbered certificate of authenticity. The limited mintage is established at 10,000 pieces worldwide.

Previous releases of the series have featured the Red-Tailed Black-Cockatoo, Budgerigar, Regent Bowerbird, and Rainbow Lorikeet.

This coin and other new releases can be found in the Perth Mint website recent releases section.


Bird flocks black out Australia town

Thousands of birds have flocked to a town in Australia, causing power cuts and a mess, its mayor says.

The galahs have been 'annoying the township for up to two months'

The galahs have been ‘annoying the township for up to two months’

Around 2,000 pink galahs and white cockatoos have descended on Boulia, Queensland, as a result of the drought, Mayor Rick Britton said.

They have been perching on power lines, causing outages when they take off, he said.

The birds may not leave until November when rain is due, he said, so “people are going to have to live with it”.

Galahs are a type of pink-breasted cockatoo found in Australia.

Several shires in Queensland are suffering from drought due to low rainfall. Boulia is in the far west of the state.

“Because we’re in dry arid land we try to make our streets beautiful with lawns and trees – so the birds think that it’s a little secret haven in the drought,” Mr Britton told the BBC.

There were around 2,000 birds in the town, he added.

The sheer number of birds has caused mess and nuisance to the town

The sheer number of birds has caused mess and nuisance to the town

The sheer number of birds has caused mess and nuisance to the town
“When they land, they actually perch on the power-lines in the main street, and when they take off in the morning the wires hit together, so we’ve been having black outs,” he said.

Mr Britton said that while the birds were not menacing in any way, they did “make a fair racket and a fair mess in town”.

_68918608_australia2He said that the birds had been “annoying the township for up to two months”, since the drought had been declared.

Some residents had tried to scare off the birds, but there were simply too many, he added.

But Mr Britton also saw a positive side to bird problem.

“For someone who wants to see a large flock of birds, there wouldn’t be a better place than Boulia to see them [right now],” he said.

“[They could be] an attraction to our landscape.”


Night Parrot Flies Out Of The Dark

SYDNEYEveryone needs a vacation, but the night parrot of Australia hasn’t been seen alive in the wild for over 100 years. On Friday, naturalist John Young claimed to have snagged a photo of one of the birds on May 25th of 2013. Continue reading to find out what methods conservationists are taking to protect and preserve the rediscovered and critically endangered species. — Global Animal

The critically endangered night parrot has remerged after over a century of seclusion. Photo Credit: Alamy

The critically endangered night parrot has remerged after over a century of seclusion. Photo Credit: Alamy

A nocturnal Australian parrot that hops like a kangaroo and had not been seen alive for more than a century has not only been seen but has been photographed, a naturalist said on Friday, but he is keeping the whereabouts a secret.

Scientists had previously based their knowledge of the critically endangered Night Parrot, a ground-dwelling bird, on the occasional dead specimen and recordings of its call – which is rare enough.

“I’ve only heard them in one place and I’ve been in a hundred places,” said John Young, a naturalist and documentary film maker who has consulted with Australian wildlife services.

“The strangest thing about this parrot, living on the ground, it hops like a little kangaroo.”

Young’s alleged sighting on May 25 in the northern state of Queensland was the culmination of a 15-year quest. He told Reuters that he lured the shy, palm-sized bird out with a recorded parrot call.

“I couldn’t get over it,” he said.

The Night Parrot is small with yellowish green plumage, mottled with brown and black specks. It hides in spinefex grass during the day and is active at night.

In 2012, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the bird as critically endangered, its population depleted by feral cats, foxes and changes in the environment after European settlement in Australia.

With no firm estimates about how many of the birds exist in the wild, Young refused to reveal where he found the parrot.

“I think the worst thing we can do at the moment is to let too many people anywhere near it,” said Young. “In the time I had with the bird the other night, it is the most sensitive bird I have ever seen.”

Leo Joseph, the director and research leader of the wildlife collection at government research body CSIRO, supported Young.

“The sooner we can learn how to look for them and find them elsewhere the better,” Joseph told Reuters. “For now, keeping the locality a secret is the way to go.” (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Elaine Lies)


Plight of wetland bird recognised in Australia

Australian Painted-Snipe © Tom Tarrant, from the surfbirds galleries.

Australian Painted-Snipe © Tom Tarrant, from the surfbirds galleries.

Why is the Australian Painted Snipe being placed on the national Endangered List good news? It means that the beleaguered shorebird can finally receive the level of protection that it needs to survive.

It’s ironic that being listed as ‘Endangered’ is good news for the endemic Australian Painted Snipe. Fewer than 1500 of the birds are left in the wild and this week Australia’s Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke added it to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act’s ‘Endangered’ category following a nomination by researchers at BirdLife Australia.

“Wetlands are critical to the species’ survival. Over the last 50 years important wetlands have been disappearing from our landscape because of inappropriate water management and development,” said BirdLife Australia (BirdLife Partner) CEO, Paul Sullivan. “The population has nose-dived and this crucial listing will help us to protect remaining wetlands and restore important ailing wetlands to their former glory.”

Of immediate concern is a proposed expansion of a coal terminal at Abbott Point, near Bowen in Queensland, will cause significant degradation of important Australian Painted Snipe habitat. Up to 24 snipe were seen there last year.

“This is a large number for a bird that’s a bit of a loner” said Paul. “It highlights the importance of this internationally significant wetland for the species. It would be irresponsible to sit back and watch its destruction without a fight — the EPBC listing provides us with good ammunition. That’s what it’s there for.”

The Australian Painted Snipe is a nomadic species which occurs only in Australia. It has been recorded dispersing to swamps in all mainland states and territories in search of habitat, though its stronghold remains the Murray–Darling Basin.

Australian Painted Snipe relies heavily on temporary wetlands that provide a rich source of food after good rains. Once these dry out, the birds can be forced towards more permanent coastal wetlands.

With the long-term outlook pointing to more frequent and more severe droughts, coastal wetland refuges such as Abbot Point will become increasingly important in the fight to stop the species from becoming extinct.


Shorebirds in danger

At risk: the bar-tailed godwit. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

At risk: the bar-tailed godwit. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

Millions of migratory shorebirds could be lost as sea level rises flood feeding grounds, Australian research has found.

Already hard-pressed by habitat loss, shorebirds face the inundation of shallow feeding grounds on what is known as the East Asian-Australasian flyway.

Endurance flyers such as the bar-tailed godwit, eastern curlew and red knot are said to be at risk of losing up to 40 per cent of their habitat and 72 per cent of their population.

University of Queensland’s Professor Hugh Possingham said millions of birds were at risk in this flyway alone, with many more in danger in other global migratory corridors. He said conservation efforts should focus on areas such as the Yellow Sea between China and the Korean peninsula.

”The world faces huge losses in conservation terms,” he said. ”It’s really important to work on those places where you get good bang for your buck.”

Some of the bird species that migrate to south-eastern Australia come from as far away as Arctic Russia and Alaska. Most pass through ”bottlenecks” in Asia such as the Yellow Sea.

Shorebirds use the feeding grounds to probe the mud, wet sand and shallows for food.