Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Where have the Birds of Prey Gone!?

*Pic: Whistling Kite in flight …

There are a number of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) strains released in Australia since 1995 by the Australian Pesticides and Veternary Medicine Authority (APVMA), the latest a Korean strain. There has been no community consultation or fauna surveys associated with the national rollout across some 600 sites. Raptors that become dependent on the Rabbits for food may have stopped breeding as a result of the Nationwide Rabbit population bombing and it may have effected the population dynamics of the Raptors.

This is the second Spring since the Calicivirus knocked our Rabbit population down that Buzzards like the occasional Kite, Falcon, Goshawk, and Sparrowhawk that used to visit have not been sighted despite the Rabbits slowly coming back.

We live in a semi deserted historical mining town on a swampy glacial moraine on the West Coast of Tasmania, a preferred hunting ground for Kites and other Buzzards. We are in the middle of three wilderness areas – the Tarkine wilderness, the Franklin wilderness, and Cradle Mountain National Park wilderness areas and used to see Raptors regularly before the devastating wildfires and Rabbit biocontrol about two years ago.

We also get Swift Parrots in the Spring who sometimes nest in the old buildings, as well as Yellow-tail Black Cockatoos. When the Raptors were on patrol the Crows would sometimes fight them that sit in the biggest Eucalyptus tree outside of the house. My background is in environmental engineering and conservation management and I enjoy bird watching. I occasionally observed Whistling Kite that like the swampy environment, two of us witnessed one once above us on the road yet the only other place in Tasmania is Port Sorrell sighting and no other official sightings on the West Coast.

The Kites were vagrant occasional visitors that could be considered critically endangered in Tasmania not like on the mainland Australia where such as on the Hawkesbury near Sydney or the wetlands near Alice Spring where they are more common. Other Raptor sightings included the Brown Falcon, Perigrine Falcon, and Collared Sparrohawk around Gormanston as well as the Little Falcon and Wedgetail Eagles that patrol the forested valley in Queenstown.

The old Wedgetail Eagle couple and youngster in the valley I have observed numerous times, including doing a death roll once after a storm and another time soaring stationary in the wind teaching the youngster how to soar. We also see the critically endangered White-bellied Sea Eagle in Strahan. The last sighting of a Raptor in Gormanston was a dead Collared Sparrowhawk over 6 months ago, even with the Rabbits slowly coming back, not I or others here have seen the other Raptors all through Spring and now Summer?

Possible limiting factors effecting Raptor population in Tasmania include:

• Reduced wetland and swamp land habitats for farming and such like;

• Vulnerable to bioaccumulation of heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants such PCBs and PFCs in the food chain given the Raptors are at the top of the trophic level and prey on weaker or sick animals. Raptors are vulnerable to bioaccumulation causing population decline is well documented in Europe and North America: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/ar…

• Electrocution from transmission lines. Estimated 11 critically endangered Wedgetail Eagles were electrocuted in a year. The DPIPWE estimates just 100 breeding pairs remain: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-…

• Ongoing Roadkill, amount killed unknown.

• Effects of wildfire such as use of PFC’s fire retardant and loss of Pademelons, Wallabies, and other foodstuff of Raptors.

• Wind farms, even the small wind farm on the NW of Tasmania claims 1-2 critically endangered Wedgetail Eagles per year; plans for more wind farms such as the Central Highlands where there are many birds that will be threatened;

• Ongoing use of 1080 poison on Wallabies and Pademelons for plantations and agriculture that may effect population dynamics of the Raptors;

• Shooting by farmers of not only Raptors but species that they depend on;

• Nationwide rollout of Rabbit biocontrol effecting population dynamics of Raptors as I have observed personally;

Australia has one of the highest rate of Mammal extinctions in the world since European settlement. The Cane Toad biocontrol was an ecological disaster yet the authorities roll out more biocontrol’s without taking responsibility. The Nationwide roll out of RHDV biocontrol across some 600 sites impacts the ecology and can effect the population dynamics of not just Raptors but the Tasmanian Devils and potentially Quolls that which depend on the Rabbits that are naturalised in the environment in Tasmania.

The introduction of RHDV Calicivirus in 2015 after the Mxyomatosis may have had a severe impact on critically endangered and threatened Raptor populations and potentially stopped breeding due to the virus. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) are irresponsible releasing a new Korean strain RHDV biocontrol Nationwide in 2017 across 600 sites; there has been no community consultation or fauna surveys first to monitor the Raptors and other animal that depend on the Rabbits and Raptor species could well of become extinct from the Island.

A better approach to delivering biocontrol’s that effect the ecology is:

1. Ask the residents, there was no community consultation

2. Fauna surveys before and after introduction of the virus

3. Alternatives to the proposal eg. Hunting Rabbits for meat. Please raise awareness of this issue and write to your elected representatives, threatened species officers, and the Australian Pesticides and Veternary Medicine Authority about the possible loss of Raptor species from the RHDV biocontrol. It is highly possible given Rabbits are naturalised into many environments that the Raptors who depended on the Rabbits could stop breeding such as between Queenbeyan and Canberra where there are a high population of Wedgetail Eagles due to the Rabbits. One has to question whether Rabbits are even invasive in Tasmania as they don’t dig holes here and residents don’t mind as they keep the grass down. Threatened Raptors are not all listed in the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 ( https://www.legislation.tas.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-1995-083 ) yet there are rare Whistling and Black Kite sightings in Tasmania, Peregrine Falcons, Brown Falcons, Grey Goshawks, Collared Sparrowhawks, and the migratory Swamp Harrier that could all be considered Threatened and Endangered in Tasmania along with the Wedgetail Eagles and White Bellied Sea Eagles that are listed.

The National role out of the Korean RHDV strain is consistent with the Department of Environment and Energy and Department of Agriculture ‘Australian Pest Animal Strategy 2017 to 2027’ of which there were some 50 submissions in the consultation for the draft: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteC…. This is a national approach of pest management and there is no mention of community consultation and fauna surveys to safeguard against the effects on population dynamics of other native species as a result of the biocontrols.

Some websites pertaining to the release of RHDV on the Rabbit populations in Australia:


http://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/invasive-s… http://www.smh.com.au/environment/a… http://www.birdlife.org.au/document…


State Contacts concerning the RHDV biocontrol at the Australian Veterinary Association: NSW Local Land Services 1300 795 299 Dept. of Primary Industries 02 6391 3834 Quentin Hart (DPI) quentin.hart@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Qld Dept. of Agriculture and Fisheries 13 25 23 Peter Elsworth Peter.Elsworth@daf.qld.gov.au

Vic Dept. of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources 136 186 John Matthews john.matthews@ecodev.vic.gov.au

SA Primary Industry and Regions South Australia Greg Mutze Greg.Mutze@sa.gov.au

Tas Dept. of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment 1300 368 550 Michael Askey-Doran michael.askey-doran@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

WA Dept. of Agriculture and Food 1800 084 881 Susan Campbell susan.campbell@agric.wa.gov.au

NT Dept. of Primary Industry and Fisheries 1800 084 881 Peter Saville Peter.Saville@nt.gov.au

ACT Transport Canberra and City Services 13 22 81 Oliver Orgill oliver.orgill@act.gov.au Please sign this petition for the authority to conduct community consultation, fauna surveys, and alternatives to the proposal in future to reduce the effect on population dynamics on the species that depend on the rabbits. Please watch out for Raptors and report them to the Threatened Species Officer of your State.


*Michael Peter Galvin: Environmental Engineering, Science, Conservation Land and Water Management MSci(EM), BEng(Env), Cert3.CALM,Cert4.BusMan,Cert.ESD. Background experiences include sustainability and environmental professional roles in multinational corporations and government agencies totalling about eight professional experiences. In addition my bushland restoration and management experience with roles site supervising and team leading in bush restoration works including working endangered ecological communities that I have done over 3 years worth of experience in.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. spikey

    February 28, 2018 at 11:55 pm

    i blame fences
    and exhaustion
    and mainlanders

  2. Simon Warriner

    February 28, 2018 at 10:51 pm

    Update, we have had a family of Kites soaring on the slope in front of the house over the last couple of weeks .. 2 adults and a smaller, perhaps juvenile bird. Very vocal, especially when the smaller one goes off too far. I guess they would be whistling kites, and have never seen them before.

    As for hares, either one is stalking me as I do the rounds spraying blackberries at work, or the density is more like 1 per 50 acres. Bloody things keep scaring the bejesus out of me in the long grass when I am busy being paranoid about snakes.

  3. Shane Cummings

    February 11, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    Good article, but the part about APVMA releasing strains of RHDV is incorrect. State and territory authorities are responsible for rabbit control. They are coordinated by the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (https://invasives.com.au).

  4. MjF

    February 10, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    The WTE’s George.
    Do you know the location of the nest(s) of the birds that you refer to and that there’s definitely been no occupation/breeding in those nests this season ?

  5. George Smiley

    February 10, 2018 at 11:49 am

    Nice to hear things are fine not too far away Simon. Just south of Burnie I have not seen a hare for 2 years and in that context they are certainly harmless. No rabbits either. The wedge-tails floated over a couple times this spring, had a look around and disappeared, not bothering to breed locally.

    Meanwhile evolution insinuates wherever it can. With access to old cooking oil the mice are growing huge to take the place of the rats that I am trapping out. But they are stupider than rats for whom patience is the key, with baits bringing them ever closer to the door or jaws of death.

    The huge mice are the problem, shrugging off mousetraps, squeezing out of rat cages and of course the damn mouse traps confer an instant bachelor’s degree on survival to the rats. Thankfully they all remain greedy for poison which we bring out occasionally for the wise guys.

  6. Michael Galvin

    February 9, 2018 at 12:48 am

    Great to hear about the Swamp Harriers. I was lucky to sight a what ought to be rare Black Kite and two Whistling Kites out the back of gunns plains recently however the Raptors stopped coming to Gormy since the calicivirus two years ago. The Swift Parrots come through in Spring maybe for the Acacias and one made a nest in a neighbours shed but later left. There is no evidence of rabbit holes in Gormy and could be considered non invasive and naturalised. Raptors, Quolls, Cats, and Devils all target baby rabbits.

  7. Simon Warriner

    February 6, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    And yet the population of swamp harriers around Oldina/Yolla/Takone is the largest I have seen in years, and in good condition. The small brown falcons are about in the same numbers as last year. Wedge tails are around in the usual numbers as well. Have not seen any goshawks for a few months but they are generally more noticeable after the Autumn break.

    Cannot say I have noticed a lack of rabbits, and anyone thinking they might be useful human tucker should read what the British SAS handbook has to say on the subject. They quote the experience of the Hudson Bay trappers who starved to death on a diet of rabbit meat because it takes more energy to digest than it returns. Still tastes nice with onions and bacon in a pie, though.

    As for hares, George, you can have the bastards from the farm I work on. They have a habit of exploding from under your feet while you are knapsack spraying ragwort up snaky creeks and gullies, and scaring you witless. Bloody things are at about the highest population density I have ever seen them in Tasmania, which is a pair every 150-200 acres. And they are not harmless, if they are in an area you intend to plant tree seedling on, get rid of them. They nip out the growing tips because they see the seedlings as interlopers and in need of a speedball. Hares that come into the area once the seedlings have been planted will generally leave them alone, from our experience. Rabbits on the other hand, will just eat the bark and kill the tree.

  8. MjF

    February 6, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    Swift parrots nesting/breeding on the west coast in old buildings ?
    What are they foraging on ?
    I was unaware of E glob and E ovata growing in substantial patches around Gormy.
    Must be some localised source of nectar to their liking.

  9. john hayward

    February 6, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    #1, Smiley. You are lucky to be living where the disaster of collapsing bird numbers is unfolding slowly. Not here, where the pace is like an avian Rapture. With Barnaby in charge of the APVMA, the tempo should pick up even more.

    John Hayward

  10. George Smiley

    February 4, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    Rabbits are naturalized AND don’t dig holes here!! Please tell mine. Maybe you are thinking of hares, which are harmless and also short on the ground. Nor would you want to hunt them for their meat, which is red, stringy and tough, exactly why the traditional recipes involve jugged or stewed.

    Another danger to remnant raptor populations are the anti-coagulant poisons we use for rats and mice which of course are doing very well in the absence of predators. And so the disaster slowly unfolds.

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