Birds under threat

In 2000, one in five of Australia's birds (20%) was listed as threatened. This gives us a very clear message that the state of Australia's environment (i.e. its ecological health), is extremely poor and in decline. The most significant contributing factor is the on-going clearing of native vegetation for both agricultural and urban expansion. This is being made worse as the effects of climate change become apparent.

Status of Australia's birds

The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010 is the third in a series of action plans that have been produced at the start of each decade. The book analyses the status of all the species and subspecies of Australia's birds to determine their risk of extinction.

Based on the latest research and consultation with leading ornithologists and conservation biologists around the country, the result is the most authoritative account yet of the status of Australia's birds.

The research was supported by an Australian Research Council linkage grant to Charles Darwin and Queensland Universities. BirdLife International, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and Biosis also provided support.

Findings

This Action Plan lists 27 taxa as Extinct, 20 as Critically Endangered, 60 as Endangered, 68 as Vulnerable and 63 as Near Threatened as at 31 December, 2010. Of bird taxa known to have been present or to have occurred regularly in Australia when Europeans settled in 1788, 2.2% are Extinct and a further 11.8% are threatened.

Some Good News

Since the 2000 Action Plan was released, the conservation status of seven taxa will be downlisted as a result of effective conservation management:
 
1.    Gouldian Finch (numbers have increased so much in the last decade that they can be moved from Endangered to Near Threatened. They have benefited at some sites from better fire management and conservative stocking rates)
2.    The Southern Cassowary;
3.    Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle; and
4.    Albert’s Lyrebird; have all benefited greatly from habitat protection
5.    Abbott’s Booby and
6.    The Christmas Island Hawk-Owl shifted from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable as a result action to control invasive ants.
7.    The Southern subspecies of Western Corella (has increased so much as a result of effective law enforcement and habitat protection that it has been shifted from Endangered to Least Concern)

Mostly Bad News

Since 2000, 39 taxa have been uplisted to a more threatened category because they are faring worse than they were a decade ago. This includes four taxa that are now Critically Endangered:
 
1.    Grey-headed Albatross
2.    Western Ground Parrot
3.    Regent Honeyeater
4.    Norfolk Island Tasman Parakeet

Causes

Most of the additions to the list in 2010 are migratory waders, numbers of which have plummeted, largely due to reclamation or degradation of habitat along their migratory pathways in East Asia.

Most threatened or extinct taxa continue to be on islands. Introduced predators and habitat destruction have taken a heavy toll. At sea, despite progress in developing and implementing mitigation techniques, all albatross taxa and several petrels continue to be threatened by high rates of mortality associated with fishing.

On the mainland, land clearance and habitat fragmentation will continue to cause species declines for decades as biodiversity pays its extinction debt. Grazing by domestic and feral herbivores, and changes in fire management are also major threatening processes.

What can we do?

There are a number of things that can be done to reduce these losses in urban areas:

Whose responsibility is it?

We all have a responsibility to ensure biodiversity is maintained. All levels of government have responsibilities to legislate for this purpose. In New South Wales, Local Government Authorities (LGAs) are responsible for ensuring the maintenance and expansion of local biodiversity and must report back to the State Government regularly. But they can't achieve this without the help of their communities - which means all of us.

We need to become actively involved by:

  • Making the maintenance of a healthy natural environment one of our agenda priorities when we vote for all levels of government.
  • Working with our Local Government authorities, demanding and supporting their initiatives towards sustainability and the maintenance of biodiversity.
  • Becoming active in our communities; talking to our neighbours about the need to take control of and improve our environments, encouraging participation.
  • Planning, planting and maintaining our gardens for birds and other wildlife.
  • Addressing climate change by changing our daily habits.
  • Becoming a member of BirdLife Australia.

Some of our Birds Under Threat:

Scientific Name: Ninox connivens
Scientific Name: Ixobrychus flavicollis
Scientific Name: Hamirostra melanosternon
Scientific Name: Grus rubicunda
Scientific Name: Climacteris picumnus
Scientific Name: Burhinus grallarius
Scientific Name: Calyptorhynchus latirostris
Scientific Name: Stagonopleura guttata
Scientific Name: Tyto longimembris
Scientific Name: Pardalotus quadragintus
Scientific Name: Callocephalon fimbriatum
Scientific Name: Calyptorhynchus lathami
Scientific Name: Erythrura gouldiae
Scientific Name: Pomatostomus temporalis
Scientific Name: Pezoporus wallicus
Scientific Name: Thinornis rubricollis
Scientific Name: Melanodryas cucullata
Scientific Name: Tyto novaehollandiae
Scientific Name: Neophema chrysogaster
Scientific Name: Pedionomus torquatus
Scientific Name: Anthochaera phrygia
Scientific Name: Polytelis anthopeplus
Scientific Name: Casuarius casuarius
Scientific Name: Stipiturus malachurus
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