Declining bird numbers in TV spotlight

22 October 2009

A research project involving Deakin University ecologist Professor Andrew Bennett, which shows a dramatic decline in native woodland bird species in northern and central Victoria over the past five years, was featured on ABC TV’s The 7.30 Report on Wednesday 21 October.

Professor Bennett worked on the research with Professor Ralph Mac Nally and Dr Jim Thomson, Monash University; Dr Jim Radford, Deakin University (now with Bush Heritage Australia); and Dr Peter Vesk, University of Melbourne. Their findings were recently published in the international journal Diversity and Distributions.

“Climate change, particularly the lack of rainfall, has reduced the quality of habitat available to a wide range of bird species,” Professor Bennett said.

“This has compounded the already serious effects of extensive habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation in the region.”

Professor Bennett believes lack of food has contributed to the decline in numbers.

“The collapse in bird numbers strongly suggests the availability of food has crashed,” he said.

“Red Ironbark trees, an important food source for nectar-feeding birds, are flowering less frequently with the drought. In five of the past eight years Red Ironbark eucalypts have flowered little or not at all.

“Most worrying, species thought to be secure, such as the Red Wattlebird and the Laughing Kookaburra, have declined as much or more than species already considered endangered.”

“We can’t change the climate,” Professor Bennett said, “but we can do much more to protect and improve the quality of habitats for our native wildlife.

“This means careful management of existing native vegetation, including our parks and reserves, and greatly increasing the amount of restoration and revegetation in rural environments. There is much good work being done by Landcare groups and others, but the scale of our restoration actions does not match the scale of the problem.”

A transcript of The 7.30 Report story is available on the program website.

News facts
  • Dramatic decline in woodland bird species
  • Need to protect and improve habitat for native wildlife
  • Scale of restoration actions does not match scale of problem

Media contact

Vanessa Barber
Deakin Media Relations
03 5227 1301; 0488 292 644

Deakin University acknowledges the traditional land owners of present campus sites.

22nd October 2009