Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered as Ceyx azureus diemenensis
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010al) [Conservation Advice].
 
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010z) [Listing Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, the approved conservation advice for the species provides sufficient direction to implement priority actions and mitigate against key threats (13/07/2010).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (98) (13/07/2010) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2010h) [Legislative Instrument] as Ceyx azureus diemenensis.
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
TAS:Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher): Species Management Profile for Tasmania's Threatened Species Link (Threatened Species Section (TSS), 2014sv) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
TAS: Listed as Endangered (Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (Tasmania): September 2012 list) as Ceyx azureus diemenensis
Non-statutory Listing Status
NGO: Listed as Vulnerable (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Ceyx azureus diemenensis [25977]
Family Alcedinidae:Coraciiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author  
Infraspecies author (Gould, 1846)
Reference  
Other names Alcedo azurea diemenensis [59615]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Ceyx azureus diemenensis

Common name: Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher

Other common names: Blue Kingfisher, Creek Kingfisher, Purple Kingfisher

Conventionally accepted as Ceyx azureus diemenensis (AFD 2010). There are eight subspecies of C. azureus, three of which occur in Australia (Higgins 1999): C. a. azureus (Queensland to Victoria); C. a. ruficollaris (the Kimberley to Cape York); and C. a. diemenensis (endemic to Tasmania). The subspecies differ in geographic distribution and morphology: C. a. ruficollaris is smaller and brighter coloured; C. a. diemenensis is consistently larger and shorter billed (Wapstra et al. 2010). There is a north-south cline of increasing size, but C. a. diemenensis is discontinuously larger than mainland subspecies (Schodde & Mason 1976).

The Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher is a small kingfisher approximately 16–19 cm in length, weighing about 40 g and with a wingspan of 25–29 cm. The subspecies has a long slender black bill and a short tail, red legs and feet, and only two forward toes, with one rear toe. The head, neck, upper parts and breast sides are deep royal blue to azure blue with a violet sheen. The neck has a distinctive orange stripe on each side and there is a small orange spot before each eye. The throat is pale orange-white, grading to orange-reddish on the belly and undertail. The flanks and sides of the breast are washed purple to violet. The lores (the region between the eye and bill on the side of the head) are white and inconspicuous except in front view, where they stand out as two large eye-like white spots. The eyes are dark brown. Sexes are similar, and young birds can be distinguished by their darker cap and generally duller colouring (Higgins 1999; Hollands 1999; Morcombe 2003; Schodde & Mason 1997; Shields 1994).

Endemic to Tasmania, the Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher occurs along several river systems on the south, west and north-west coast with outlying occurrences in the north-east, east, centre and Bass Strait islands (Wapstra et al. 2010). Individuals and pairs that may be breeding residents have been sighted on the central plateau at a number of locations (e.g. Dee Lagoon, Woods Lake and Junction Lake) (Wapstra et al. 2010). Irregular sightings on King Island, Flinders Island and Bass Pyramid, several kilometres north-west of Flinders Island, may be dispersing birds from Tasmania or the mainland (Wapstra et al. 2010).

The overall distribution of the Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher (historical and contemporary) appears to be a reflection of the consistently higher rainfall of the west to north-west region with a greater density of larger rivers compared to the drier east and north-east (Wapstra et al. 2010). The following table presents catchments where the subspecies has been observed (Wapstra et al. 2010):

Area  Catchment 
Breeding observed  Several/numerous sightings Irregular sightings
North-east, east      Musselroe-Ansons, Furneaux, Ringarooma, Great Forester-Bird, Prosser
Midlands, Derwent, central plateau  South Esk (historical) Brumbys-Lake  Ouse, Upper Derwent, Lower Derwent, Jordan 
South-east, south     Derwent Estuary-Bruny, Huon
South-west, west Wanderer-Giblin, Gordon-Franklin, King-Henty, Pieman, Arthur, Welcome, Sorell Port Davey Nelson Bay
North-west, north Duck, Black-Detention, Inglis, Blythe, Condor, Camp Creek, Black, Deep Creek Montagu, Cam, Emu, Leven, Mersey King Island, Rubicon, Meander

Garnett and Crowley (2000) estimate the Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher's extent of occurrence as 2000 km2, with a medium reliability factor. The area of occupancy is estimated to be approximately 500 km2 though this has a low reliability factor (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The subspecies is known from approximately 60 locations, although the data used in this count includes observations of single birds (Wapstra et al. 2010).

Garnett and Crowley (2000) suggest the Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher consists of a total population size of fewer than 250 mature individuals, although this has low reliability.

Historically, the subspecies has been recorded from locations throughout Tasmania, although it may never have been common in the east and north (Thomas 1979).

The Azure Kingfisher occurs mainly along the forested margins of major river systems of the west and north-west coast of Tasmania, in areas that provide foraging and breeding habitat. A wide range of forest types are utilised, but mainly wet sclerophyll eucalypt forest with broad-leaved and rainforest shrub understorey (Green 1995; Harris & Kitchener 2005). Birds are often found in shady areas, and often amongst overhanging, vegetation of riverine forests dominated by wet sclerophyll and mixed forests supporting mainly eucalypt species (Green 1995). Sightings on atypical habitat have occurred on salt-sprayed offshore rocks (Bass Pyramid) and bare intertidal mudflat (Wapstra et al. 2010).

The generation length of the Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher is unknown but estimated to be 3 years (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

Nests of the Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher are drilled holes in a river bank (Green 1995; Higgins 1999). The entrance to burrow nests is usually near the top of the stream bank, with a tunnel extending 20–40 cm to a widened nest chamber. Both parents incubate eggs and care for young. Between five and seven glossy white eggs are laid on bare earth in the burrow chamber, and hatch after approximately 20–22 days. Fledging (time taken to acquire the feathers necessary for flight) occurs in approximately 4–5 weeks post hatching, and after fledging, young quickly become independent (Higgins 1999; Morcombe 2003; Shields 1994).

The Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher habitually is seen to use favoured sites and perches for fishing, for periods of a few days or weeks at an ephemeral pool and up to five years on a permanent stream (Hollands 1999). The subspecies mostly catches prey by shallow plunging from perches 1–10 m high that overhang rivers and streams (Higgins 1999; Hollands 1999; Shields 1994).

The Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher feeds on small fish, freshwater crayfish, aquatic insects and occasionally amphibians. It occasionally forages on the ground, taking beetles and other terrestrial insects (Higgins 1999; Hollands 1999; Shields 1994). Whitebait (e.g. Galaxias spp.) and trout fingerlings are suggested as important food resources for the subspecies at many Tasmanian sites, with anecdotal evidence from ferry operators on the Arthur River that the subspecies is more prevalent in the lower reaches of the river during the time of the whitebait run. Individual birds have also been seen feeding on small fish backed up in in-stream obstructions, such as weirs or willow infested sites along the Mersey River and Deep Creek (Wapstra et al. 2010).

The Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher is sedentary, though may undertake some movements from home ranges for breeding (Higgins 1999). There is no evidence of migration between Tasmania and the mainland (Wapstra et al. 2010).

The Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher differs from the two other subspecies known to occur in mainland Australia (C. a. azurea of eastern Australia and C. a. ruficollaris of northern Australia) by being larger in body proportions and laying larger eggs (Schodde & Mason 1976).

The following table outlines threats to the Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher:

Threat Risk Details
Habitat clearing Potential Clearing along stream banks (including logging), which could affect stream health, may have contributed to a decline in the subspecies, including localised extinctions (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Tas. DPIPWE 2009). Legislation now entails buffer zones along river and stream banks (Michaelis 1984).
Acid mine drainage Potential Higgins (1999) states that "acidic runoff from tailings dams in Tasmania may adversely affect local populations." Some of the worst affected river systems within its current range are not known to be inhabited by the subspecies, suggesting that acid mine drainage may make some portions of river systems unsuitable for the subspecies (Tas. DPIPWE 2009). Quantifying the past, present and future threat to the Azure Kingfisher from acid mine drainage is very difficult due to the lack of baseline population monitoring (Wapstra et al. 2010).
Waterway construction and fluctuating water levels Potential  Impacts to waterways from bridge, weir and jetty construction may affect the subspecies, especially through fluctuating water levels (Wapstra et al. 2010). Bridge construction works which occur across river sections which support breeding colonies of the subspecies are likely to disturb breeding behaviour (Tas. DPIPWE 2009).

River systems that support the subspecies may be subject to recreational boating activity, and it is possible that even a one-off high wake from a power boat could flood an active breeding burrow (Tas. DPIPWE 2009). It is unknown whether the small wash created by cruise boats is sufficient to flood nesting burrows along inhabited stretches of river.

Competition with Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) Potential Competition with Brown Trout, which are now present in all streams, probably reduce the availability of galaxiids and the other small fish (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Jackson 1978; McDowall 2006) which are presumed to be the kingfisher’s natural prey.
Inappropriate removal of Willow (Salix spp.) Potential While Willows are often targeted for removal due to their pest status (Tas. DPIPWE 2003), some anecdotal evidence suggests that the subspecies may benefit locally from infestations of in-stream Willows, which create slow-moving to still backwaters in some drainage systems and allow schools of small fish to back up at certain times of the year (Zukowski & Gawne 2006).
Inappropriate whitebait (e.g. Lovettia spp.) removal Potential Whitebait is considered a significant food resource to the Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher so factors that affect whitebait populations may also affect the subspecies. Historic overfishing and current illegal poaching are potential threats to the subspecies. Many rivers have major hydro-electric dams, which alter the flow regimes in lowland reaches and potentially effect whitebait migrations and habitat availability (McDowall & Eldon 1980 cited in Tas. IFS 2006).

A whitebait fishery operated in Tasmania from the 1930s, peaked in the 1950s and closed in 1974 (Tas. IFS 2006). In 1947, a peak catch of 480 t was taken and catches declined to one tonne in 1972 (Tas. IFS 2006). Limited recreational fishing has operated since 1990 and the Whitebait Fishery Management Plan (Tas. IFS 2006) identifies management actions to protect whitebait populations. For instance, management of in-stream barriers that prevent the movement upstream of juvenile fish into adult habitat are essential to maintain galaxiid whitebait populations.

Sites where whitebait accumulate are a focus for large scale poaching (McDowall & Eldon 1980 cited in Tas. IFS 2006). Garnett and Crowley (2000) state that activities such as "poaching of whitebait from western rivers" may be a reason for the decline in the subspecies.

Minister's reasons for Recovery Plan decision

There should not be a recovery plan for Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher as the approved conservation advice for the subspecies provides sufficient direction to implement priority actions and mitigate against key threats.

Action Plan for Australian Birds

The Action Plan for Australian Birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000) identifies the following actions for recovery for the Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher:

  • assess population size to establish a baseline
  • characterise occupied and unoccupied streams in terms of water quality, prey availability and likely threatening processes
  • surveys of streams in north-west, west and central Tasmania
  • assess possibility of establishing a captive population
  • remedial action based on habitat quality assessments.

Tasmanian whitebait fishery

The Tasmanian Whitebait Fishery Management Plan (Tas. IFS 2006) outlines objectives in the management of the recreational whitebait industry in Tasmania. The main objectives are to (Tas. IFS 2006):

  • maintain the fishery and avoid over exploitation
  • implement a daily catch limit of 1 kg and a season limit of 10 kg
  • manage the fishery as a six week season
  • open further rivers to take
  • apply regulations so fishers are within 8 m of nets at all times and are prohibited from damaging native vegetation with their equipment
  • monitor the fishery to determine the level of impacts on whitebait, threatened species and by catch.

Commonwealth Conservation Advice

Refer to the Commonwealth Conservation Advice (TSSC 2010al) for information on research priorities and recovery priority actions to mitigate threats including habitat loss, disturbance and modification, and weeds. Raising awareness of the subspecies is also encouraged in the Advice.

Undertaken action

During 2001–2002, the Inland Fisheries Service (IFS) implemented a Natural Heritage Trust funded project on the Forth River to improve fish passage, for example, by removing or modifying weirs in the lower reaches of rivers (Tas. IFS 2006). Some of these rivers included ones known to support the Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher, such as Duck River.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley, 2000) [Cwlth Action Plan].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Land clearance (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2001w) [Listing Advice].
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Illegal take Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010z) [Listing Advice].
Biological Resource Use:Hunting and Collecting Terrestrial Animals:Illegal hunting/harvesting and collection Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010z) [Listing Advice].
Biological Resource Use:Logging and Wood Harvesting:Habitat disturbance due to foresty activities Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010z) [Listing Advice].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat loss, modification and/or degradation Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010z) [Listing Advice].
Energy Production and Mining:Mining and Quarrying:Habitat destruction, disturbance and/or modification due to mining activities Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010z) [Listing Advice].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Mechanical disturbance during construction, maintanance or recreational activities Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010z) [Listing Advice].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:inappropriate conservation measures Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010z) [Listing Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Salmo trutta (Brown Trout) Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010z) [Listing Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Alteration of hydrological regimes including flooding Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010z) [Listing Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Changes to habitat hydrology Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010z) [Listing Advice].

Australian Faunal Directory (AFD) (2010). Australian Faunal Directory. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/online-resources/fauna/afd/home. [Accessed: 30-May-2010].

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/action/birds2000/index.html.

Green, R.H. (1995). The Fauna of Tasmania: Birds. Launceston, Tasmania: Potoroo Publishing.

Harris, S. & A. Kitchener (2005). From Forest to Fjaeldmark: Descriptions of Tasmania's Vegetation. Hobart, Tasmania: Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.

Higgins, P.J. (ed.) (1999). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume Four - Parrots to Dollarbird. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Hollands, D. (1999). Kingfishers & Kookaburras. Sydney: Reed New Holland.

Jackson, P.D. (1978). Benthic invertebrate fauna and feeding relationships of brown trout, Salmo trutta Linnaeus, and river blackfish, Gadopsis marmoratus Richardson, in the Aberfeldy River, Victoria. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research. Page(s) 725-42.

McDowall, R.A. (2006). Crying wolf, crying foul, or crying shame: alien salmonids and a biodiversity crisis in the southern cool-temperate galaxioid fishes?. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries. 16:233-422.

Michaelis, F.B. (1984). Possible effects of forestry on inland waters of Tasmania: A review. Environmental Conservation. 11(4):331-344.

Morcombe, M. (2003). Field guide to Australian Birds. Archerfield, Queensland: Steve Parish Publishing.

Schodde, R. & I.J. Mason (1976). Infra-specific variation in Alcedo azurea Latham (Alcedinidae). Emu. 76(4):161-166.

Schodde, R. & I.J. Mason (1997). Aves (Columbidae to Coracidae). In: Houston, W.W.K. & A. Wells, eds. Zoological Catologue of Australia. 37.2. Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing.

Shields, J. (1994). Azure Kingfisher. In: Strahan, R., ed. Cuckoos, Nightbirds & Kingfishers of Australia. National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife. Sydney: Angus & Robertson.

Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE) (2003). Willows - weed management plan. [Online]. Available from: http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/WebPages/TPRY-5GS6FV?open.

Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE) (2009). Records held in DPIPWE's Threatened fauna files. Hobart, Tas.: DPIPWE.

Tasmanian Inland Fisheries Service (Tas. IFS) (2006). Whitebait Fishery Management Plan. [Online]. Available from: http://www.ifs.tas.gov.au/ifs/fisherymanagement/recreationalfishery/whitebait-final-version.pdf/view.

Thomas, D.G. (1979). Tasmanian Bird Atlas. In: Fauna of Tasmania Handbook 2. Hobart: Fauna of Tasmania Committee, University of Tasmania.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2010al). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher). [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/25977-conservation-advice.pdf.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2010z). Commonwealth Listing Advice on Ceyx azureus diemenensis (Tasmanian Azure Kingfisher). [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/25977-listing-advice.pdf.

Wapstra, M., S. Bryant & P. Bell (2010). 'Conservation overview of the azure kingfisher Ceyx azureus subsp. diemenensis in Tasmania. Tasmanian Bird Report. 34:8-23. [Online]. Available from: http://www.ecotas.com.au/publications.

Zukowski, S., & B. Gawne (2006). Potential effects of willow (Salix spp.) removal on freshwater ecosystem dynamics. A Literature Review. Report for the North East Catchment Management Authority. Wodonga: Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Ceyx azureus diemenensis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Fri, 22 Aug 2014 18:21:49 +1000.