Wandering off the plains!
The Plains-wanderer is a small ground-dwelling bird. The female bird is larger and more brightly coloured than the male. It is of great scientific interest as it may be an ancient member of Australia's avifauna, with origins dating back to when Australia was part of the Gondwanan supercontinent.
There are now possibly fewer than 8,000 Plains-wanderers left in the wild, and in drought years, when overgrazing of habitat occurs, the population may be more than halved.
The Plains-wanderer is found in the low-land native grasslands in the Riverina region, in Northern Victoria and smaller numbers are found in south-western and central Queensland. It is effectively extinct in south-west Victoria, south-east South Australia, eastern New South Wales and south-east Queensland. Lowland native grasslands are among the most depleted ecosystems in south-east Australia.
The main threat to the Plains-wanderer is clearing and modification of native grasslands for agriculture. Even if left to recover, the grasslands will remain unsuitable as habitat for decades. Where patches of habitat remain, they may be too few and dispersed to be effective refuges during drought. Overgrazing causes the Plains-wanderer to leave an area when grassland is reduced to a remnant, probably because it becomes too vulnerable to predators.
Another threat to the Plains-wanderer is the use of pesticides, especially when used in large quantities to spray locust plagues. Pesticides kill the birds either directly or indirectly through the food chain.
Extensive surveys of the Plains-wanderer have been undertaken in NSW, Victoria and south-eastern South Australia. Detailed research has focussed on their habitat requirements and recovery plans have been developed for the NSW and Victorian populations. A draft management plan to reduce pesticide impact has been produced by the Australian Plague Locust Commission. The Plains-wanderer's habitat has been incorporated into conservation reserves in Queensland and Victoria.
You can help by:
- contacting local Bushcare officer to find out about best practice native grassland management
- protecting remnant bush in your community or on your land to help provide habitat for all our native animals, including the Plains-wanderer;
- supporting local efforts to conserve threatened species in your area by joining a local organisation such as a Landcare or catchment group, natural history or a 'friends of' group or by volunteering for Green Corps or the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers;
- participating in special events, information nights, tree planting days and weed eradication programs.
To find out more about saving your state's threatened species check out the Threatened Species Network web site at http://www.wwf.org.au/tsn/index.htm or call the Network's National Office on (02) 9281 5515.
You can also find out more information about Australia's threatened species by calling the Department of the Environment and Heritage's Community Information Unit on free call 1800 803 772