Back from the Brink?

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Woko's picture
Back from the Brink?

The Diamond Firetail is close to extinction in the Mt Lofty Ranges so Ms Woko & I have been very fortunate, not to mention priveleged, to have had several visits to our property over the time we've been here. Two years ago we had a pair hang about for several months. They didn't breed. We hoped that they might have become permanent residents but it was not to be & when last year we had no sightings of Diamond Firetails at all we feared that we might have seen the last of them. Forever.  

But hope springs eternal & today I sighted one at our bird bath. With the variety of native grasses becoming established in increasingly large areas on our patch & the current flowering of some native grasses after recent rain we're now tentatively hoping that a population of Diamond Firetails might yet become established here.

zosterops's picture

why is this species believed to be in its current predicament, woko? 

Woko's picture

Zosterops, most of the literature I've read about this species' deline in the Mt Lofty Ranges relates it largely to habitat clearance. When other literature says that only 4% of the natural environment of the Mt Lofty Ranges is left then I'm not at all surprised. My own observations in the Ranges support these contentions.

Predation by cats & foxes is also given as a reason. Neither am I surprised by this as the cat (if not the fox) culture is alive with all fangs bared in the Ranges. The partially terrestrial Diamond Firetail is particularly vulnerable to such predation.

Efforts to bring the Diamond Firetail back from the brink are hampered because most revegetators, from my observations, don't consider the role that native grasses play in providing habitat for this & other species.

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

Awesome, Woko. We once had Diamond Firetails here in Tenterfield but I've never seen one, and I've lived here for 21 and a half years. Sounds like to me that your birds are following the food sources and that is why they stay for a certain period of time and then disappear but come back the next year. 

I've found that to keep small birds here so they breed they need thick, dense, tall shrubbery, along the creek. A thick stand of privet and introduced willow growing together seems to please the birds enough to get them to stay and breed. I know this works for Superb Fairy Wrens, Red-browed Finches and Double-barred Finches (i think that's what they're called). They all used to breed in basically the same location at the same time, all within 50 feet of each other. It has to be sheltered too. So if you want these birds to breed on your property they need something to breed in that's evergreen and prickly during summer/autumn. They need food sources too during that time. But its probable that they have already breed and are bringing their young ones to your property for the food as it is in abundance.

When I go shopping for plants to add to my garden I buy plants that are in flower at the time. I do this throughout the entire year. Researching indigenious plants and sourcing them out is not always achieveable  I can't always find what I want so I have to compromise. I recently bought an Azalea and put it in the garden. It is poisonous to humans and animals alike but as there is no indigenous poisonous plants around the Azalea had to do. It should be okay for insects though. Strangely, since I put in the Azalea the magpies have abandoned their favourite shady spot the other side of the Azalea. Mind you I've also moved the water bowl to another part of the garden to reduce the sparrow and Indian Myna infestations we have right now. I don't believe the Magpies have found the water bowl either.

Anyways, I hope the finches stay for as long as they can for your pleasure. Good luck with it all, Woko.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Woko's picture

Hi Shirely.

Visits from Diamond Firetails are quite random here & don't seem to be related to food availability. If they were they'd be around in late spring, early summer when there is lots of native grass seed being shed. The Firetails certainly aren't annual visitors. Neither have they produced or introduced any young. The maximum number I've seen at our place is two.

Several local people have told me that they, too, have random visits from Diamond Firetails. My strong suspicion is that numbers are way, way down from what they used to be. I'm just hoping there's enough developing natural habitat for them to be brought back from extinction's dark abyss before it's too late.

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