For nearly a century Wedge-tailed Eagles have faced threats to the survival of their species.

Since as early as 1920’s the Wedge-tailed Eagle has been considered a pest, especially with farmers who believe the birds are a threat to their livestock.

In fact, in Western Australia, State Government awarded community members five shillings per head to reduce population numbers of this species. While the bounty was in place, it is estimated that over 140,00 were killed in Western Australia between 1928 and 1968. Queensland also focused on population control of wedge-tailed eagles between 1951 and 1966 with 160,000 killed. Other states and territories have also had motivated culling efforts with wedge-tail eagles over the years.

Today, the eagles are protected under respective state laws, with penalties of up to $8,000 in fines and imprisonment for their persecution.

The wedge-tail eagle is Australia’s largest bird of prey and the mass culling of this species began in the 1920’s due to a misconception of farmers that they were feeding on their livestock. Many farmers were convinced that this large and powerful bird was killing their livestock (for example sheep) by capturing them in their talons and flying off with them. We now know that the Wedge-tail Eagle feeds on rabbits and mice, rather than sheep – or do we? Recent reports believe Wedge-tailed Eagles are still a target for inhumane, unethical and illegal culling.

In 2018 a Victoria Farmer pleaded guilty to poisoning 406 Wedge-tail Eagles over a period of two years. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) was responsible for prosecuting the farmer and reported that it would take more than two-and-a-half years before breeding recovered to its pre-kill levels. Sadly, ABC reported feedback from wildlife officers who believe illegal killing of Wedge-tail Eagles is common and a national issue that needs to be address to ensure longevity of this Australian native bird species.

ABC Article – Farm worker who poisoned 406 wedge-tailed eagles in east Gippsland jailed and fined – ABC News

The ABC Network recently aired an informative and fascinating documentary about our native Australian parrots. This documentary is called Australia: The Land of Parrots produced by multi-award winning, natural history filmmakers David Parer and Elizabeth Parer-Cook.

In June 2022, the Bird Advocacy Foundation’s very own patron Gislea Kaplan provided her knowledge on native parrots and how they are being impacted by urban sprawl and climate change. Gisela’s presentation can be viewed by clicking here.

The documentary Australia: The Land of Parrots shows how parrots have had to adapt as their landscape and environmental conditions have changed over time. Viewers can see huge flocks of parrots and cockatoos coming together for safety in numbers as they adapt to new landscapes sourced for survival. The evolution of Australian parrots and their ability to adapt to challenging environments is remarkable.

Across Australia there are a range of different types of parrots and cockatoos that can be spotted in a range of different environments, from the desert, bushland, rainforest to the city and coastal landscapes.  North, South, East and West, this documentary provides insights into the spectacular and bizarre behaviour of Australia’s wild parrots and cockatoos.

Watch Australia: The Land of Parrots by clicking here.

Full credit: ABC Network – Australia: Land of Parrots is a film by David Parer and Elizabeth Parer-Cook.

The Australian native magpie is notorious for swooping in Spring. Learn how to avoid them!

Not surprisingly, swooping season starts around September, the first month of Spring and the start of breeding season for our great Australian native bird, the magpie.

Whilst it can be terrifying if you are on the receiving end of a swooping magpie, it is important to understand that this behaviour is a protective mechanism to scare off perceived predators or threats to their nests. Imagine if you were a parent or parent-to-be, what would you do if you felt something or someone was a threat to your young? Instinctively, you react to protect. It is the same for magpies, and indeed most other animal species.

The magpie is a native Australian bird species and they are protected by:

It is illegal to harm or kill a magpie, therefore it is important we learn how to interact with them during the breeding season. Experts believe that magpies only swoop for a period of 6-8 weeks during their breeding season. However, not all magpies will swoop, just those whose nesting is close to areas where humans may frequent.

Due to the increasing urban development in our country, suitable native landscape for magpies to roost and breed has decreased significantly, which is why swooping often occurs in parks within our community.

Patience during breeding season for magpies is important, because locations for them to breed are severely limited. Remember, outside of swooping season, our native magpie is actually a friendly and important part of our eco-system.

Tips to avoid swooping magpies:

Firstly, if you know an area where magpies swoop and you can avoid the location, this avoidance is the best choice. If possible, we want to allow magpies to breed in peace, and also avoid the stress of being targeted by this species.

In the event you cannot avoid a swoop zone:

At the Bird Advocacy Foundation (BAF), we promote better outcomes for our native bird species. We work with a range of partners to drive new initiatives which promote the availability of food, water and shelter for the preservation of our bird wildlife. Our research suggests that many challenges faced between humans and birds can be remedied with proactive planning and the implementation of wildlife support strategies.

If you haven’t seen the black crow, it is likely you have heard them before!

The call of the crow is unmistakable .. it is a loud and deep booming “caw” sound.  Crows are an easy to recognise large black bird with shiny feathers and they are often found around urban areas and cities.

Crows are a bird species that has a reputation for being highly intelligent, adaptable and empathetic. Unfortunately, they are often disliked due to a reputation for being destructive, however, it may surprise you that not only do crows make our environment work better, they are critical to supporting our urban landscape with waste management!

See below five ways crows are integral to our environment!

  • Contributing to the balance of our ecosystem

Crows are an integral link in nature’s cycle, helping to maintain a balance between predators and prey.  Crows feed on pests and worms for survival and increase the diversity of species in the areas they are located.

  • Masters of waste management

As humans have developed urban landscapes and cities, the intelligent crow has largely abandoned rural areas for the safety of urban settlements where there is an abundance of food that is readily available.  Put simply, crows feed on waste for survival and help clean up organic disposal.

Crows feed on food and scattered garbage, eating the organic waste and cleaning our garbage which when accumulated can often become toxic and breed diseases that humans are susceptible to.  

  • Saviours of disease

These masters of waste management help protect humans from potential diseases that may develop from garbage.   Crows feed on fruits and vegetables that are rotting and in the process reduce or eliminate organic waste. With the reduction or elimination of waste, germs, fungus and bacteria are either eliminated or cannot develop, and as such diseases are eradicated or stopped from developing.

  • Natural pesticides

Crows are protectors of pests! Toxic and costly pesticides are often used to protect crops and farms! The crow is nature’s non-toxic solution. They feed on pests, worms and larvae, which provide cleaner produce.

  • Supports seed dispersion

In addition to being nature’s natural pesticide, it also helps nature grow. As crows feed on a variety of waste, vegetation and organic material, they develop clean, highly nutritious droppings which can be spread through different habitats, starting new vegetation or helping restore habitats.  

Crows help keep our environment free of waste and eliminate decaying animals. This in turn helps to reduce the bacteria which inevitably can lead to to diseases.

References

At the Bird Advocacy Foundation (BAF), we promote better outcomes for our native bird species. We work with a range of partners to drive new initiatives which promote the availability of food, water and shelter for the preservation of our bird wildlife. Our research suggests that many challenges faced between humans and birds can be remedied with proactive planning and the implementation of wildlife support strategies.

How can humans help support native Australian bird wildlife in our constantly changing modern landscape?

We have continued to develop our society – roads, infrastructure, housing, commercial space, transport etc. It is only natural that our native wildlife has evolved to be part of an ecosystem with a rapidly changing landscape. Feeding, breeding, and shelter have had to adapt to survive changes that have impacted the decreasing availability of suitable native landscapes.

For birds, in particular, we have identified changes in behaviour that, to humans, are undesirable. These include:

  • Large-scale flocking of birds who together feed on agriculture crops or productive horticulture (impacting crops by an average of 45%)
  • Damage to public and private infrastructure (often due to roosting or shelter)
  • Feeding in “unintended” areas causing damage and rubbish, e.g. Bins.

The answer to improving human versus bird interactions is relatively simple – balance.

Balance can be achieved but providing for birds:

  • Native landscapes in suitable climates for birds to feed, shelter and breed;
  • Breeding boxes in landscapes to protect from introduced predators;
  • Feeding programs to ensure sufficient food and water sources are available for all birds;
  • Native wildlife support programs in high-density areas ensure suitable parks and landscapes with appropriate native plants and designs.

At the Bird Advocacy Foundation (BAF), we promote better outcomes for our native bird species. We work with a range of partners to drive new initiatives which promote the availability of food, water and shelter for the preservation of our bird wildlife. Our research suggests that many challenges faced between humans and birds can be remedied with proactive planning and the implementation of wildlife support strategies.

For some, this playful, cheeky bird species is possibly the most effective gardener there is!

If you have ever seen a cockatoo or multiple cockatoos forging around in a grassy area, the chances are they have found a healthy patch of onion grass to feast on.. and this is one feast you want to encourage!

A stubborn pest weed from South Africa, onion grass spreads quickly throughout grassed areas, where they reseed and reproduce under the soil. Onion grass is notoriously difficult to control and is a severe pest to agriculture, native grasslands and turf laid for public or private purposes, e.g. lawns or nature strips.

For humans to treat onion grass weed infestations is costly and timely. Multiple treatments are needed over a period, which involves high-cost chemical sprays, and at times if severe, the removal of topsoil. Onion weed can grow all year round, and seeds can remain viable for many years in soil, which is why it is so hard to control.

Onion weed can spread so aggressively that one area can be infested with 5000 onion grass plants per square meter! Imagine the benefit of one or a flock of cockatoos feasting on onion grass where there is an infestation. Gregory Moore, from The University of Melbourne, research has found cockatoos feeding on onion grass:

Compared with expensive, moderately effective and timely control measures adopted by humans, our fun-loving cockatoos can eradicate an onion grass infestation in a fraction of the time, with a higher success rate (as they eat the seeds) and at no cost. Plus… their foraging helps aerate the soil. Way to go, Cocky!

At the Bird Advocacy Foundation (BAF), we promote better outcomes for our native bird species. We work with a range of partners to drive new initiatives which promote the availability of food, water and shelter for the preservation of our bird wildlife. Our research suggests that many challenges faced between humans and birds can be remedied with proactive planning and the implementation of wildlife support strategies.

It’s hard to believe these cute and cuddly koalas were once considered pests in Australia!

Did you know that a number of native Australian animals were once considered pests and had bounty’s on their heads?

Information sourced: Australian Geographic

  1. Koala (vulnerable)
  2. Wombat
  3. Tasmanian Devils
  4. Thylacines (extinct)
  5. Wedge-tail Eagle

Koala

Bounty: No Bounty.

Reason: Hunted for their fur.

Summary: Queensland allowed culling of these animals in 1927, with an estimated 800,000 koalas being killed. It is estimated that 8 million koalas were killed between 1888 and 1927 for the USA and Europe fur trade.

Endangered status:

In Queensland, koalas are considered a “vulnerable” species.

Wombat

Bounty: One dollar per head 1926 to 1966 (Victoria)

Reason: Wombats were considered vermin (in fact, in some states right up until 1984!).

Summary: The wombats were brutally hunted for bounties – poisoning, trapping, shooting, skinning. Wombats were considered destructive, damaging farmers’ fences and other infrastructure. Additionally, wombat holes caused havoc in paddocks when cattle broke their legs in the gaps or as burrows collapsed. 

Endangered Status:

  1. Common wombat – most minor concern.
  2. Southern hairy nose wombat – Near threatened
  3. Northern hairy nose wombat – Critically endangered

Tasmanian Devil

Bounty: Two shillings and sixpence for males and three shillings and sixpence for females from 1830 to 1941

Reason: It was alleged that the Tasmanian devil was a threat to livestock, primarily chickens.

Summary: Sadly, Tasmanian devils were trapped and poisoned for over a century, with the farming group Van Diemen’s Land Company placing a bounty on their heads. In 1941 the Tasmanian devils became protected. Whilst population numbers grew, the species was further impacted in the 1990s, but a facial tumour disease has seen the number plummet by up to 90% in some areas. 

Endangered Status:

Endangered.

Thylacines

Bounty: One pound per head and ten shillings for sub-adults from 1888 to 1909 (Tasmanian Government).

Reason: Alleged threat to livestock, especially poultry. Researchers believe this to be significantly exaggerated.

Summary: The Thylacines were hunted to the point of extinction. The last Thylacine died the same year the animal finally gained protection under Tasmanian law.

Endangered status:

Extinct.

Wedge-tail Eagle

Bounty: Five shillings per head from 1940 to 1942 (Western Australia)

Reason: A misconception that wedge-tail eagles threatened farmers’ livestock

Summary: While the bounty was in place, it is estimated that over 140,00 were killed in Western Australia between 1928 and 1968 and 160,00 in Queensland between 1951 and 1966. Today, the eagles are protected under respective state laws, with penalties of up to $8000 in fines and imprisonment for their persecution. Conservation efforts have seen several wedge-tail eagles increase.

Endangered Status:

Endangered in Tasmania.

Related links:

https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2018/09/iconic-australian-animals-that-once-had-a-bounty-on-them

The regent honeyeater, a native songbird, predicted to have fewer than 300 birds in Australia.

In April 2022, Australian National University (ANU) provided an update on the progress of their specialist donor program – Difficult Bird Research Group. With over 100 donors, the ANU has worked to identify Australia’s most endangered and “difficult”( extremely endangered, hard to find, occur in wild and rugged terrain, and move around the landscape) birds over the last few years. The focus is on research and conservation to better understand our bird wildlife and any threats to their existence.

One such species identified in the research was the threat of extinction of the regent honeyeater. The regent honeyeater is a unique Australian songbird, and there are estimated to be fewer than 300 surviving in the wild.

The lead research author, Professor Rob Heinsohn, identified three key areas to prioritise to bolster conservation to increase regent honeyeater numbers. These included:

  1. Increase volume of protected nests for breeding, with a focus on predatory-mitigation solutions;
  2. Increase breeding programs in zoos with a breed and release program to transition into the wild.
  3. Restoration of the natural habitat of regent honeyeaters and future protection to ensure the feeding, breeding and shelter are provided for.

Whilst the ANU recognises that intensive conservation efforts are already in place, the regent honeyeaters are heading for extinction in 20 years. Once one of the most common birds (located from Adelaide to Rockhampton), Professor Rob Heinsohn, has stated that the “regent honeyeater population has been decimated by the loss of over 90 per cent of their preferred woodland habitats.”

ANU team research recommends doubling to save the regent honeyeater. The Taronga Conservation Society has an established breeding program, with a release into the Blue Mountains ranges.

At the Bird Advocacy Foundation (BAF), we promote better outcomes for our native bird species. We work with a range of partners to drive new initiatives which promote the availability of food, water and shelter for the preservation of our bird wildlife. Our research suggests that many challenges faced between humans and birds can be remedied with proactive planning and the implementation of wildlife support strategies.

Related links:Related links:

BAF has sourced information within this article within the following:

https://www.anu.edu.au/giving/impact-stories/providing-a-lifeline-for-australia%E2%80%99s-most-%E2%80%98difficult%E2%80%99-birds

https://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/what-will-it-take-to-save-the-regent-honeyeater

Learn from Professor Gisela Kaplan 

Professor Gisela Kaplan is a renowned expert in bird behaviour. The presentation provided via the link provides insights into the challenges our native Australian parrots face and the concerns for their long-term sustainability as a species, with many parrots endangered or suffering declining population numbers. Click here to view the presentation.

Shout out for the efforts of community groups who support our native plants and wildlife!

One of the supporters at Bird Advocacy Foundation recently introduced us to Gardens for Wildlife Victoria and the positive work they do within our community to care for native plants and wildlife.

Gardens for Wildlife Victoria joins a network of persons within the community and councils across Victoria who works together to engage residents, schools and businesses to join a mission to promote native plants and wildlife.

Recognising that our country is experiencing hotter and drier conditions due to climate change, Gardens for Wildlife Victoria and participating councils have acknowledged that along with population control, our open landscapes and spaces are under greater demand than ever before.

To underpin the environmental sustainability initiatives, these councils commit to the Gardens for Wildlife program, which is designed to support the community to create their gardens and outdoor spaces in a manner that attracts our local wildlife, including birds, insects, lizards and more. The program provides free visits by two Garden Guides who will give a written report outlining an assessment of habitat opportunities in the garden, suggestions and advice.

All conservation efforts are crucial in shaping a sustainable future for our wildlife; it shows that everyone can add value to protecting and safeguarding our native species.

Related Links:

https://gardensforwildlifevictoria.com/
 

Corellas are changing their behaviours due to increased challenges caused by human versus bird interactions.

Like our beloved kookaburras, emus and magpies, the long-billed corella is an Australian native bird. Despite being a native animal, the long-billed corella is increasingly changing their behaviour due to increased human versus bird interaction.

As our country develops with evolving technology and demand for goods and services due to population growth, humans occupy more and more space, specifically native Australian land that our wildlife rely on for survival.

Various industries report negative interactions with long-billed corellas, including:

  • Agriculture – destroying crops for feed;
  • Community – destroying private and public infrastructure; and
  • Mining and Construction – large flocks damaging equipment.

Did you know that:

  1. Large flocks are abnormal for Corellas – they only flock when they fear dying, generally due to lack of water or starvation.
  2. Corellas are certainly not “breeding like rabbits” – they usually only produce four offspring in a lifetime.
  3. The best locations (climate-wise) for birds happen to be the exact locations humans favour.
  4. Humans have changed the native landscape to suit our needs, meaning areas for corellas to roost and feed are reduced.
  5. Flocking is not an indication of larger bird populations. However, it indicates that our native bird species are feeling under threat and anticipate a crisis.

At the Bird Advocacy Foundation (BAF), we promote better outcomes for our native bird species. We work with a range of partners to drive new initiatives which promote the availability of food, water and shelter for the preservation of our bird wildlife. Our research suggests that many challenges faced between humans and birds can be remedied with proactive planning and the implementation of wildlife support strategies.