Saving the Gouldian finch
Managing fires will help these charismatic outback birds survive.
CAMERAS BOUGHT with the help of Society funds are being used to do the first systematic surveys of Gouldian finches in a part of the eastern Kimberley. Dr Alexander Watson of WWF-Australia and the Kimberley Land Council’s Kija Rangers are collecting data on the population size and the birds’ movements. Over three years, 10 cameras will film 1000L drums, which release water to attract finches.
The data will contribute to a management plan that involves fencing out cattle, reseeding grass, and managing fire regimes and feral cats. At the project’s core is developing a plan to protect Gouldian finches from bushfires at the end of the dry season. “These fires have been one of the birds’ biggest threats ever since the land was opened up by pastoralism, when the small, mosaic burning by local indigenous groups ended,” says Alexander. He will work with the Kija Rangers on small burns early in the dry season, which will protect finch habitat from fire.
Recent news has been more positive – the population seems to be stabilising and the species was downgraded from endangered to near threatened by the IUCN a few years ago. Previously, the population had plummeted from hundreds of thousands to just a few thousand. Today it’s estimated there are 2400 adults in the wild.
Kimberley Land Council rangers (right) are using remote cameras to spy on Gouldian finches.