A newly published study shows Australians must work with international partners if they are to save all of Australia’s birds.

The joint study by The University of Queensland (UQ), Charles Darwin University and BirdLife Australia shows that the status of Australian birds was declining faster than elsewhere in the world.

The Australian Research Council funded study, which was published in the journal Biological Conservation, reports on changes in the Red List Index for all Australian species and subspecies of birds since 1990.

The Index is used by the world’s governments to assess performance under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

One of the paper’s authors and UQ School of Biological Sciences researcher, Professor Hugh Possingham, says the new study is the first time the Index has been applied at a national level.

“The Red List Index can be considered the Dow Jones index of birds,” Professor Possingham said.

“It is important that we track it so that we can determine the impact of past and future policies on Australia’s biodiversity, an asset that generates billions of dollars a year for the economy.”

Charles Darwin University (CDU) Research Fellow Dr Judit Szabo said research showed that the status of Australian birds was declining faster than elsewhere in the world.

“The main reason is a rapid decline in migratory shorebirds coming here from Asia and ongoing threats to oceanic seabirds,” Dr Szabo said.

Developer of the Red List Index, BirdLife International’s Dr Stuart Butchart said that the status of birds in Australia would have been much worse if it weren’t for the work being done to prevent extinctions.

“Nearly 30 species are better off than they would have been if it weren’t for effective investment of time and money into threatened species conservation,” Dr Butchart said.

“The analysis shows that targeted investment can produce measurable improvement.”

The analysis also compared States and Territories. While the Index has declined in all jurisdictions, the Australian Capital Territory has the best score and Tasmania the worst. Tasmania is also the place where bird status is declining fastest.

CDU’s Dr Szabo said that Island species, even those on islands as big as Tasmania, are always worse off than mainland species.

“Small oceanic islands have been the hardest hit,” she said.

“However these are also areas where investments can really pay off – a big rat and rabbit eradication program on Macquarie Island could even turn the Red List Index around next time we calculate it.”

The biggest causes of decline in Australian birds have been invasive species, like rats and cats, and changes in fire regime. Overseas the losses have been caused by ongoing coastal development in Asia and deep sea fishing.

Science Alert here

First published: 2012-03-05 12:00 AM

• Senator Bob Brown, Greens Leader: Tassie’s birds in greatest danger

Tasmania’s birds are in the greatest danger of extinction according to a new a paper from researchers at the Universities of Queensland and Charles Darwin and Birdlife International.

“The researchers took the international ‘red list’ of all birds that were in danger of extinction and applied it to Australia,” Senator Brown said.

“They found that if you included external threats Australia’s bird life according to the list was declining faster than the rest of the world and if you looked at just internal threats then we met the global average. The trouble is the global average shows a trend towards animal extinctions.

“The Australian birds most threatened according to the red list were in Tasmania.

“However, there is good news. The paper finds that careful and balanced efforts to rid areas of invasive species and restore habitat can move birds down the list. In particular the researchers believe the success of the rabbit cull on Macquarie Island will potentially see some bird species bounce back and improve Australia’s red list position.


Jennifer Rowallan, Tasmanian Conservation Trust,               
Chris Simcox, Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania  

Autumn is the killing season in Tasmania for tens of thousands of native birds.

The legalised killing in the name of recreation kicks off with the start of the native duck shooting season this Saturday the 10th of March, closely followed by the annual slaughter seasons for Short-tailed Shearwaters and Brown Quail.  The Tasmanian Conservation Trust (TCT), Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania (AACT) and Wildlife Tasmania have once again joined in solidarity to speak out against this brutal annual destruction of wildlife in Tasmania.

“Each year in this state, tens of thousands of native birds are killed in the name of “recreation”.  This really is just brutal slaughter of wildlife, and we call for an end to the needless suffering of our native birds. With duck shooting, for example, birds fired at with shotguns will inevitably be wounded and suffer painfully before being killed outright, while others that escape with injuries can die an even slower death.” said Chris Simcox, Native Wildlife Campaigner for AACT.

“The Tasmanian Government has gradually weakened the protection of wildlife in our state in recent times.  Wood Ducks were protected in Tasmania until 2003 when they were added to the list of “game species”.  Last year the open season on Brown Quail was expanded to cover the entire state and this year we saw an open season on Cape Baron Geese on Flinders Island from January to March,” said Jennifer Rowallan, Biodiversity Campaigner for the TCT.

“Every year we see extreme cruelty wherever there is government-sanctioned killing of wildlife.  It is totally unacceptable to allow the killing of innocent creatures for so-called ‘sport’.  It is time that the Tasmanian Government took the serious step of outlawing the brutal slaughter of native birds just for recreation.” said Peter Power, Wildlife Tasmania.