There’s noth­ing plain about the van­ish­ing grass­lands wan­derer

The Riverine Herald - - NEWS -

IT WAS threat­ened species day last Thurs­day and lo­cal farm­ers on the Patho Plains have re­newed their de­ter­mi­na­tion to save the Plains-Wan­derer, one of Aus­tralia’s most crit­i­cally en­dan­gered bird species.

The bird used to be found in na­tive grass­lands around Aus­tralia be­fore 95 per cent of its habi­tat was lost to cul­ti­va­tion for crops, pas­tures, and ur­ban de­vel­op­ment.

But lo­cal farm­ers An­drew and Faye Bail, Bill and San­dra McGil­livray and Andy and Judy McGil­livray have fought to pro­tect what re­mains of the ground-dwelling birds’ habi­tat by putting key ar­eas of their farm­land un­der le­gal covenant.

The farm­ers are part of the North­ern Plains Con­ser­va­tion Man­age­ment Net­work, which is sup­ported by Trust for Na­ture through fund­ing from the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment’s Na­tional Land­care Pro­gram.

Pres­i­dent of the North­ern Plains CMN, Faye Bail, said she still has Plains-Wan­der­ers around her prop­erty and wants to make sure they can con­tinue to have a home there.

“I wanted to give them a hand be­cause they’re so rare and unique,” she said.

Of the world’s 9993 species of birds, re­searchers have ranked the Plains-Wan­derer first among Aus­tralian birds and fourth in the world in terms of their evo­lu­tion­ary dis­tinct­ness and ex­tinc­tion risk.

There is es­ti­mated to only be be­tween 250-1000 birds left.

To help pro­tect the bird’s grass­land habi­tats the farm­ers have been pro­vided as­sis­tance with ‘fenc­ing to soil type’, which al­lows them to graze the sen­si­tive red and red-brown soils early and then move their stock to heav­ier grey soils to al­low the soil time to re­cover.

“Fenc­ing to soil type has re­ally made a dif­fer­ence to how we run our stock across the prop­erty,” Mrs Bail said. “It has al­lowed us to man­age our red soil much more con­ser­va­tively, pro­tect­ing the vi­tal habi­tat for the Plains-Wan­derer and other threat­ened species.”

Fe­male Plains-Wan­der­ers are larger and more brightly coloured than males, which do most of the in­cu­ba­tion and all of the rear­ing of their 2-5 chicks. Fe­males may pair se­quen­tially with two males in the same sea­son.

Plains-Wan­der­ers have demon­strated their abil­ity to tol­er­ate a range of graz­ing regimes but they are not able to sur­vive when the grass­lands be­come very dense af­ter pro­longed heavy rains or al­ter­na­tively, re­ally bare af­ter pro­longed dry pe­ri­ods.

The North­ern Plains CMN mem­bers, along with ex­perts such as Plains-Wan­derer author­ity Dr David Baker-Gabb, play an ac­tive role in the Vic­to­rian Plains-Wan­derer Re­cov­ery Group work­ing with Zoos Vic­to­ria in de­vel­op­ing a cap­tive breed­ing pro­gram at Wer­ribee Zoo.

The North­ern Plains CMN is also work­ing on en­sur­ing the habi­tat on the North­ern Plains on both pub­lic and pri­vate land re­mains suit­able for the Plains-Wan­derer to sur­vive and thrive.

EN­DAN­GERED: A male Plains-Wan­derer, left, with his more brightly-coloured fe­male part­ner are one of the most threat­ened bird species in the world.

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