Eastern bristlebirds face extinction

John Nagle, catchment officer for the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, shows the types of vegetation the critically-endangered eastern bristlebird lives in. Jay Cronan
John Nagle, catchment officer for the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, shows the types of vegetation the critically-endangered eastern bristlebird lives in. Jay Cronan

IT HAS been dubbed the ‘Little Aussie battler’.

Fewer than 50 eastern bristlebirds are left in the wild and they are in serious danger of becoming extinct.

However, environment workers are on a mission to make sure that doesn’t happen.

John Nagle, a catchment officer with the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority (NRCMA), is involved with the National Recovery Program’s northern working group, whose main aim is to save the bristlebird.

He regularly surveys bird populations, has helped develop a long-term vegetation and habitat monitoring program, worked on habitat management and restoration, and prepared fire management strategies for important habitat areas.

“The NRCMA has been involved for about five years now,” Mr Nagle said.

“We’re helping to improve habitat for bristlebirds on private property.

“Fire management is also an important part of the project.

“We need to recover and restore the bristlebird population, bec-ause it’s critically endangered.

“So we are trying to make a difference.

“We want to get the species de-listed (from the endangered list).”

Just four populations of the eastern bristlebird remain – in north-eastern NSW, south-east Queensland, the Illawarra-Jervis Bay region and on the NSW-Victorian border.

The Northern NSW population is listed as critically endangered under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act, and isnationally listed as endangered.

Mr Nagle said the bristlebird – a small, ground-dwelling bird which spends most of its time in low, dense vegetation – was once far more common.

“It used to be found right throughout the Big Scrub,” he said. “But there are a few reasons for the population decline.

“Predation from feral cats and dogs, foxes and pigs is one reason.

“There’s also the loss of habitat, and the invasion of weeds, which is why we engage with landowners.

“We’re maintaining the population in NSW, but it’s not such a rosy picture in Queensland.

“But we’ve got to keep trying.

“It would be great to have more funds to keep this important program going.

“For just a little bit of money, a local business could do a lot for this lovely bird.”

A pilot captive breeding program, which was being run in Queensland, has stopped because of lack of funding.

Mr Nagle said it had been very successful.

The program bred bristlebirds in captivity before releasing them back into the wild.

The northern working group is now seeking commercial sponsors to support the eastern bristlebird recovery project.

For more information, call the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority’s investment officer Martin Prestidge on 6642 0622.

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