You can hear the excitement in Dejan Stojanovic’s voice down the line from Bruny Island, Tasmania.
The TSR Hub researcher is in the field, checking on the 300+ nesting boxes he and his team spent a large part of their winter installing in known swift parrot territory.
“We weren’t sure the birds would use the boxes. But I’ve just checked a box that has six eggs. We’ve looked at 40 boxes so far, and 11 are occupied by swift parrots – they certainly are making use of them,” Dejan says.
“We predicted where the swift parrots were going to be this year, and it’s a great area. There is plenty of food, plenty of flowering about to happen.”
The location has previously been a nesting site for swift parrots, and Dejan says the birds are somehow able to assess the relative quality of different breeding sites across Tasmania each year, and settle to breed in the best location.
Swift parrots are nomadic migratory birds that breed wherever in Tasmania the most abundant food is available, but are critically endangered. Introduced sugar gliders have heavily preyed upon swift parrots, killing females while they are nesting, causing a dramatic decline in the species. The Bruny Island site is sugar glider free, making it an important focal point for the species conservation.
Dejan and his research team have monitored the settlement and flowering patterns of swift parrots across Tasmania since 2009. That the parrots are using the nesting boxes indicates a success of their monitoring efforts, with more research opportunities to follow.
Dejan says “soon the birds will have three habitat options – natural hollows, the nesting boxes, and hollows that were ‘carved out’ by a small army of volunteer arborists who arrived on the island this past weekend.
“It will give us some great data for comparisons; it’s really a great opportunity to investigate the birds’ nesting preferences further, and figure out whether these techniques can help us breed parrots in safe locations.”
Image: Swift parrots are making use of nesting boxes (image supplied by Henry Cook).
The Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the National Environmental Science Program expresses our sympathy to everyone whose life has been impacted by these horrific fires, and acknowledges the heartbreak of families who have lost everything, including loved ones.
Many landscapes in Australia are fire-prone, and increasingly so. Altered fire regimes can have a serious negative impact on threatened plant species and ecological communities. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project is working to better understand the effects of different fire regimes on threatened flora in order to improve fire management strategies and conservation outcomes.
Almost a quarter of Australia’s possums and gliders are listed as threatened under Australian environmental law, and many more are showing signs of decline. Dr Rochelle Steven from The University of Queensland believes people in the community can do a lot to support conservation, especially in urban areas.
The detection and monitoring of threatened species have been a strong area of research in the National Environmental Science Program and also the two national environmental research programs which preceded it. Hub Director Professor Brendan Wintle takes a look at what we’ve been achieving and why it is so important to the conservation of Australia’s threatened species.
In 2009, the Christmas Island blue-tailed skink and Lister’s gecko were headed for imminent extinction. Parks Australia acted quickly to collect remaining wild individuals in order to establish captive breeding programs on Christmas Island and at Taronga Zoo, Sydney, which have been highly successful. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project team is working closely with Parks Australia to help secure a future for the two lizards beyond captivity.