Sav­ing the Goul­dian finch

Man­ag­ing fires will help these charis­matic out­back birds sur­vive.

Australian Geographic - - Contents -

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.

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