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 Vulnerable
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, included on the Commenced List (1/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.2 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010l) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NSW:Red-lored Whistler - profile (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2005ig) [Internet].
NSW:Red-lored Whistler Threatened Species Information (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS), 1999bl) [Information Sheet].
NSW:Review of the Threatened Species Conservation Act Schedules 2007-2009 (NSW Scientific Committee (NSW SC), 2009b) [State Species Management Plan].
SA:Threatened Species of the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin. Red-lored Whistler Pachycephala rufogularis (South Australian Department for Environment and Heritage (SA DEH), 2006h) [Information Sheet].
State Listing Status
NSW: Listed as Critically Endangered (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): December 2013)
SA: Listed as Rare (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): Rare species: June 2011)
VIC: Listed as Threatened (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Victoria): February 2014)
Non-statutory Listing Status
VIC: Listed as Endangered (Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria: 2013)
NGO: Listed as Vulnerable (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Pachycephala rufogularis [601]
Family Pachycephalidae:Passeriformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Gould,1841
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
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

The current conservation status of the Red-lored Whistler, Pachycephala rufogularis, under Australian and State/Territory Government legislation is as follows:

National: Listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

New South Wales: Listed as Endangered under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

South Australia: Listed as Vulnerable under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972.

Victoria: Listed as a threatened species under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988; classified as Endangered under the Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria 2003.

Scientific name: Pachycephala rufogularis.

Common name: Red-lored Whistler.

Other names: The Red-lored Whistler has also been known as the Buff-breasted, Red-throated or Rufous-throated Whistler or Thickhead, and as the Red-lored Thickhead.

The Red-lored Whistler is a conventionally accepted species (Christidis & Boles 1994; Schodde & Mason 1999). No subspecies are currently recognized (Schodde & Mason 1999), but no specimens have been collected from the isolated populations on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia and in central New South Wales and, in light of observations that show that adults on the Eyre Peninsula can exhibit a plumage character (a narrow cinnamon band on the nape) that is not seen in adults in the main Murray-Mallee population (Matthew et al. 1995), further work is required to determine what differences, if any, exist between the three geographically separate populations (Higgins & Peter 2002; Schodde & Mason 1999).

The Red-lored Whistler is about 19 to 22 cm long. It has a wing-span of 30 to 33 cm, and a mass of about 37 g (Higgins & Peter 2002). The adults are mainly dull-brownish grey, but they have a distinct rufuous-orange facial patch that extends from the lores (i.e. between the bill and eyes) down to the chin and throat and, in all males and most adult females, rufous-orange colouring on the lower underbody (i.e. the lower breast, belly, vent and undertail-coverts). They have a black bill, dark red irises, dark grey skin around the eyes, and black to grey-black legs and feet. The sexes generally appear alike, but some females can have a duller colouration that makes them difficult to distinguish from immature males (Higgins & Peter 2002).

Juvenile birds can be distinguished from the adults on the basis of their much browner plumage and streaked underbody. Immature birds can be distinguished from the adults when in their first or, less often, in their second plumage by their duller colouration (although immature males can appear similar to dull-coloured adult females) (Higgins & Peter 2002).

The Red-lored Whistler is usually seen singly or in twos. It is occasionally seen in groups of three (Hunt 1976; Matthew et al. 1995; Sluiter & O'Neill 1996).

The Red-lored Whistler is endemic to Australia (Higgins & Peter 2002).

The Red-lored Whistler occurs in semi-arid regions of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The core of the population is centred on the South Australia-Victoria border, where it occurs in the Murray-Mallee region and Upper South-East region (including Riverland Biosphere Reserve) of South Australia, and in the Big Desert and Sunset Country areas of Victoria (Barrett et al. 2003; Higgins & Peter 2002; Matthew et al. 1996; Woinarski 1987).

There are isolated populations occupying much smaller areas at Noombinnie Nature Reserve and Round Hill Nature Reserve in central New South Wales (Barrett et al. 2003; Chapman 1990), and in Pinkawillinie Conservation Park on the northern Eyre Peninsula in South Australia (Matthew et al. 1995, 1996).

The Red-lored Whistler was recorded in south-western New South Wales during the 1980s and 1990s (Blakers et al. 1984; Cooper & McAllan 1995; Val et al. 2001), but the status of this population is uncertain because, although searches have been conducted, there have been no records of the species in this region since 1996 (Barrett et al. 2003; Clarke 2002, 2004a; Mazzer et al. 1998).

There have also been reports of vagrants on the Adelaide Plains and in the Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia (Hackett & Hackett 1986; Parker 1984), and a single, unconfirmed record of the species near Cobar in north-central New South Wales (Lindsey 1981).

The extent of occurrence is estimated to be 400 000 km². This estimate, which is based on published maps, is considered to be of medium reliability (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

It is unlikely that there have been any recent changes in the extent of occurrence (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The Red-lored Whistler has disappeared from some areas of its former range (Baker-Gabb 2005; Garnett & Crowley 2000). However, based on available records, these disappearances do not seem to have had a major effect on the extent of occurrence (i.e. the limits of the species appear more or less unchanged when comparing past and present distributions based on documented records, with the exception of the outlying population on the Eyre Peninsula that was only discovered in 1993).

The historical distribution of the whistler is poorly known. It is thought likely that the species once occurred throughout suitable mallee habitat in south-western New South Wales, north-western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia (Garnett & Crowley 2000). Because of poor knowledge of the historical distribution, it is possible that a decline in the extent of occurrence may have gone unrecorded.

The area of occupancy is estimated to be 5000 km². This estimate, which is based on the number of 1 km² grid-squares that the species is thought to occupy when its population is most constrained, is considered to be of low reliability (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

There has been a decrease in the area of occupancy since the late 19th century (Garnett 1993; Woinarski 1987). The extent of the decline is difficult to measure because the historical distribution is poorly known (this is due, at least in part, to confusion between the Red-lored Whistler and Gilbert's Whistler Pachycephala inornata (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Parker 1984; Woinarski 1987).

The decline in the area of occupancy is suspected to be continuing (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The Red-lored Whistler has not been observed at Pulletop Nature Reserve in New South Wales since 1982 and is probably now extinct at this locality (Baker-Gabb 2005; Barrett et al. 2003; Chapman 1990; Lindsey 1984). It was recorded in south-western New South Wales near Ennisvale Station and Springwood Station during the 1980s (Blakers et al. 1984; Cooper & McAllan 1995), and at Tarawi Nature Reserve in 1996 (Val et al. 2001), but recent searches in this region have failed to produce any subsequent records (Barrett et al. 2003; Clarke 2002, 2004a; Mazzer et al. 1998;). It has not been recorded in Hattah-Kulkyne National Park in Victoria since the mid 1980s (Baker-Gabb 2005; Barrett et al. 2003), which may be indicative of a westward contraction in the distribution of the species in Victoria (Baker-Gabb 2005). Its distribution may also have contracted at some sites in South Australia. For example, population declines have been recorded at Billiatt Conservation Park, Mount Rescue Conservation Park and Ngarkat Conservation Park, and only the largest tracts of mallee at these three locations remain occupied (Clarke 2004b); and there have not been any records around the extreme lower reaches of the Murray River since the 1980s (Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Barrett et al. 2003; Blakers et al. 1984; Matthew et al. 1996; Parker 1984; Stove 1994).

The Red-lored Whistler is estimated to occur at eight locations. The species has recently been known to occur at five locations in the Murray-Mallee region: south-western New South Wales, Murray Sunset National Park, Big Desert National Park/Ngarkat Conservation Park, Billiatt Conservation Park, and Riverland Biosphere Reserve. Each of these reserve systems is large (from 59 000 to more than 800 000 ha in size), but it is conceivable that a single wildfire could render most or all of each reserve system unsuitable for the Red-lored Whistler. The Red-lored Whistler also occurs at two locations in central New South Wales, Noombinnie Nature Reserve and Round Hill Nature Reserve, and is assumed to occur at a single location on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. Some of these eight locations may now support only a very small number of birds (Clarke 2006, pers. comm.).

There are no known captive populations of the Red-lored Whistler, and no captive birds have been released into the wild. The draft national recovery plan that has been prepared for the Red-lored Whistler and other threatened mallee birds recommends that a population re-introduction program be investigated and then established if deemed necessary (Baker-Gabb 2005).

Based on the definition employed by Garnett and Crowley (2000), the Red-lored Whistler population is considered not to be severely fragmented. However, it is claimed that at least 50% of the habitat of the whistler has been cleared, and that clearing is ongoing (Garnett & Crowley 2000). Because of this the Red-lored Whistler population is now dispersed across scattered fragments of remnant mallee habitat (Baker-Gabb 1985; Woinarski 1987). The populations that occur in small reserves do not appear to be viable, and the populations that occur in large reserves may be small despite the large area of suitable habitat available (for example, the Red-lored Whistler is now thought to be very rare in Ngarkat Conservation Park) (Clarke 2006, pers. comm.). Based on this information, it would appear that the habitat and distribution of the Red-lored Whistler is severely fragmented.

The distribution and, especially, the population size of the Red-lored Whistler are not well known. This is because information on the distribution and population size is derived from only a small number of targeted surveys (Clarke 2004b; Gates 2003; Woinarski 1987), some general surveys of mallee fauna (Forward & Robinson 1996; Mazzer et al. 1998; Robertson 1989; Val et al. 2001), and some opportunistic observations (many of which are summarised in Higgins and Peter [2002]). The collection of information is made difficult because the Red-lored Whistler occupies some of the most inaccessible terrain that remains in south-eastern Australia. This prevents complete surveys of the population from being made (Clarke 2006, pers. comm.).

The total breeding population of the Red-lored Whistler has been estimated, with low reliability, to consist of 10 000 birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000). It is thought that the population size could be substantially less than 10 000 birds, but at present no quantitative data is available to assess the population size accurately (Clarke 2006, pers. comm.)

The Red-lored Whistler is estimated to occur in eight populations, but this estimate is considered to be of low reliability (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The eight populations are located in mallee isolates in central and south-western New South Wales; in Sunset Country and Big Desert in Victoria; and north of the Murray River (including in Riverland Biosphere Reserve), in Billiatt Conservation Park and adjacent areas, in Ninety-Mile Desert and the Upper South East Region, and in Pinkawillinie Conservation Park in South Australia (Baker-Gabb 2005; Garnett & Crowley 2000). However, the status of the population that occurs in mallee isolates in south-western New South Wales is uncertain because there have been no records in this region since 1996 (Barrett et al. 2003; Blakers et al. 1984; Clarke 2002, 2004a; Cooper & McAllan 1995; Mazzer et al. 1998; Val et al. 2001).

The largest of the populations is estimated to consist of 2000 breeding birds, but this estimate is considered to be of low reliability (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The identity of this population was not provided by Garnett and Crowley (2000), but the largest populations are believed to be those in Sunset Country and Big Desert in Victoria, and in Billiatt Conservation Park, and in the Ninety-Mile Desert and Upper South-East region, in South Australia. The smallest populations are probably the three populations in New South Wales, and the outlying population in Pinkawillinie Conservation Park in South Australia. These estimates of relative population size are only speculative, and more refined estimates of population sizes, and of total population size, are required (Baker-Gabb 2005).

The trends in numbers have been documented for some populations. The populations in Billiatt Conservation Park, and in the Ninety-Mile Desert and Upper South-East Region, have declined substantially (Clarke 2004b). The absence of records from Hattah-Kulkyne National Park since the mid 1980s (Baker-Gabb 2005; Barrett et al. 2003) suggests that the population in Sunset Country may also have declined. The status of the population in south-western New South Wales is uncertain because there have been no records in this region since 1996 (Barrett et al. 2003; Blakers et al. 1984; Cooper & McAllan 1995; Mazzer et al. 1998; Val et al. 2001). The evidence for the decline and possible extinction of the species at Pulletop Nature Reserve in New South Wales suggests that the extant populations in central New South Wales are also in decline. No information is available on population trends in Riverland Biosphere Reserve or on the northern Eyre Peninsula, although the latter population is likely to be small (Clarke 2006, pers. comm.).

The exact tenure(s) of land for each population are unknown, but most populations occur in areas that are managed for conservation (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The total breeding population of the Red-lored Whistler is suspected to be decreasing in size (Garnett & Crowley 2000). Population declines are continuing in small remnants of habitat (Smith et al. 1995), and a recent study has shown that populations have also declined substantially in the large tracts of habitat that occur in Billiatt Conservation Park, Mount Rescue Conservation Park and Ngarkat Conservation Park (Clarke 2004b). The significant declines that have occured in the latter three reserves are thought to have taken place over the past two decades (Clarke 2006, pers. comm.).

The population size has probably been in decline since the late 19th century (Garnett 1993; Parker 1984; Woinarski 1987). The magnitude of the population decline is unknown because of a lack of historical records, but it is claimed that at least half of the habitat of the species has been cleared (Garnett & Crowley 2000), which suggests that the decline has been substantial.

Based on speculative estimates of population size, the most important populations are likely to be those in Sunset Country and Big Desert in Victoria, and in Billiatt Conservation Park, and in the Ninety-Mile Desert and Upper South-East region (including Riverland Biosphere Reserve), in South Australia (Baker-Gabb 2005). However, there have not been any genetic comparisons between populations and, although morphological comparisons indicate that there are no differences between the populations around the South Australia-Victoria border and in central New South Wales, the scant information available on the Eyre Peninsula population suggests that it may differ slightly from the other populations. Therefore, in the interest of maintaining genetic variability, the population on the Eyre Peninsula may also be considered important to the long-term survival of the species. The populations of the Eyre Peninsula and central New South Wales may also be considered important because they occur at the limit of the distribution. The loss of the Eyre Peninsula population, or of the two central New South Wales populations, would greatly reduce the extent of occurrence.

The generation length is estimated to be five years, but this estimate is considered to be of low reliability due to the scarcity of information on the life history of the species (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The Red-lored Whistler has been recorded in several Nature Reserves. In New South Wales, it has been recorded in the Nombinnie Nature Reserve, Round Hill Nature Reserve, Pulletop Nature Reserve and Tarawi Nature Reserve (Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Chapman 1990; Val et al. 2001). In Victoria, it has been recorded in Murray-Sunset National Park, Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, Big Desert Wilderness Park and Wyperfeld National Park (Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Emison et al. 1987). In South Australia, the species has been recorded in Pooginook Conservation Park, Bakara Conservation Park, Billiatt Conservation Park, Ngarkat Conservation Park, Mount Rescue Conservation Park, Carcuma Conservation Park, Mount Boothby Conservation Park and Ferries-McDonald Conservation Park (Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Attwood 1977; Clarke 2004b; Matthew et al. 1996; Stove 1994).

It has also been recorded on former stations of Calperum and Taylorville, which are now owned by the federal government (Baker-Gabb 2005; Matthew et al. 1996; Pedler 1982), and on the privately owned Gluepot Reserve (Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Eckert 1972), all of which are now included in the Riverland Biosphere Reserve (Clarke 2006, pers. comm.).

There have not been any records since 1996 or earlier at Pulletop Nature Reserve, Tarawi Nature Reserve, Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, Mount Boothby Conservation Park, or Ferries-McDonald Conservation Park (Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Baker-Gabb 2005; Barrett et al. 2003).

The Red-lored Whistler has been recorded in several Nature Reserves. In New South Wales, it has been recorded in the Nombinnie Nature Reserve, Round Hill Nature Reserve, Pulletop Nature Reserve and Tarawi Nature Reserve (Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Chapman 1990; Val et al. 2001). In Victoria, it has been recorded in Murray-Sunset National Park, Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, Big Desert Wilderness Park and Wyperfeld National Park (Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Emison et al. 1987). In South Australia, the species has been recorded in Pooginook Conservation Park, Bakara Conservation Park, Billiatt Conservation Park, Ngarkat Conservation Park, Mount Rescue Conservation Park, Carcuma Conservation Park, Mount Boothby Conservation Park and Ferries-McDonald Conservation Park (Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Attwood 1977; Clarke 2004b; Matthew et al. 1996; Stove 1994).

It has also been recorded on former stations of Calperum and Taylorville, which are now owned by the federal government (Baker-Gabb 2005; Matthew et al. 1996; Pedler 1982), and on the privately owned Gluepot Reserve (Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Eckert 1972), all of which are now included in the Riverland Biosphere Reserve (Clarke 2006, pers. comm.).

There have not been any records since 1996 or earlier at Pulletop Nature Reserve, Tarawi Nature Reserve, Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, Mount Boothby Conservation Park, or Ferries-McDonald Conservation Park (Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Baker-Gabb 2005; Barrett et al. 2003).

The Red-lored Whistler inhabits low mallee shrublands, heathlands and woodlands that have an open canopy and a moderately dense but patchy understorey (Emison & Bren 1989; Matthew et al. 1996; Menkhorst & Bennett 1990; Woinarski 1987).

In tree mallee environments in the Murray Mallee region (such as those that occur in Murray Sunset National Park and Riverland Biosphere Reserve), the Red-lored Whistler displays a preference for habitats that support a mosaic of mallee and Triodia vegetation. In the more heath-dominated mallee environments located further south, it displays a preference for taller mallee heath (Clarke 2005a).

The species has been detected at sites where the vegetation exhibits a post fire age of between five to fifty or more years (Clarke 2005a; Higgins & Peter 2002; Matthew et al. 1996; Sluiter & O'Neill 1996; Woinarski 1987). In tree mallee habitats, the species nonetheless displays a preference for habitats that have remained unburnt for long periods, with post-fire ages of 20 or more years (in Murray Sunset National Park) or 40 or more years (in Riverland Biosphere Reserve) being of most significance (Clarke 2005a).

The Red-lored Whistler mostly occurs in mallee vegetation that has a sparse or open canopy comprised of 2-5 m tall eucalypts such as E. incrassata, E. dumosa, E. foecunda, E. socialis and E. leptophylla; a low (usually less than 1.5 m tall), moderately dense understorey that may be comprised of various species, including Melaleuca uncinata, Callitris verrucosa, Leptospemum coriaceum, Phebalium bullatum, Baeckea behrii, B. crassifolia, Hakea muelleriana, Leucopogon cordifolius, Allocasuarina muelleriana, Calytrix tetragona, Banksia ornata and species of Acacia; and a sparse ground layer usually comprised of tussocks of Triodia, and sometimes species of Maireana, Sclerolaena, Chenopodium, Westringia, Zygophyllum, Ptilotus and Stipa, with extensive areas of bare ground (Matthew et al. 1995, 1996; Schodde 1965; Sluiter & O'Neill 1996; Woinarski 1987). It rarely occurs in tall mallee (Matthew et al. 1996; Parsons & McGilp 1935; Schodde 1965). It has occasionally been recorded in other habitat types including eucalypt forest and banksia scrub (Hackett & Hackett 1986), eucalypt woodland (Cooper & McAllan 1995), and among rushes and lignum beside a swamp (Parker 1984).

No specific information is available on the ages of sexual maturity, life expectancy or natural mortality. However, individual Red-lored Whistlers are probably capable of surviving for more than fifteen years, as has been recorded for other species of Pachycephala in Australia (ABBBS 1998, 1999, 2000), and they probably begin breeding during their second year, as reported for the Rufous Whistler P. rufiventris (Bridges 1992; Erickson 1951).

The Red-lored Whistler breeds from August to November (Chapman 1990; Eckert 1972; Higgins & Peter 2002; Parsons & McGilp 1935). It builds a substantial cup-shaped nest of bark, sticks, leaves and other plant material that is mainly taken from mallee eucalypts. The nest is generally placed in a clump of Triodia and sheltered by a shrub or tree, or in the fork of a mallee Eucalyptus, Casuarina, Banksia, Melaleuca or Acacia (Chisholm 1946; Chapman 1990; Higgins & Peter 2002; Howe 1928; Parsons & McGilp 1935; Sutton 1929).

The female lays two or sometimes three eggs (Eckert 1972; Higgins & Peter 2002; Parsons & McGilp 1935) that vary in colour from white to pink or light buff and have dark spots, mainly around the broad end (Chapman 1990; Chisholm 1946; Parsons & McGilp 1935). The eggs are incubated by the female (and possibly also by the male) (Higgins & Peter 2002).

It is not known what role the adults play in the care of nestlings, but both parents feed young that have left the nest (Eckert 1972; Higgins & Peter 2002).

No figures are available on breeding success, but nests can be parasitized by Pallid Cuckoos Cuculus pallidus (Higgins 1999).

The Red-lored Whistler mainly feeds on invertebrates including beetles, bugs, moths, caterpillars and grasshoppers (Lea & Gray 1935; Parsons & McGilp 1935; Sutton 1929). It is also said to eat some fruit (Parsons & McGilp 1935), and the stomach of one bird examined contained a single seed (Sutton 1929).

The Red-lored Whistler forages on and close to the ground (Hunt 1976, 1979; Parsons & McGilp 1935; Woinarski 1987). It gleans (plucks) insects from the ground, and from the foliage, branches and occasionally bark of mallee plants including Eucalyptus incrassata, E. baxteri, Melaleuca uncinata and Leptospermum coriaceum. It also captures some insects in flight by sallying (Woinarski 1987).

The Red-lored Whistler is probably a resident or sedentary species (Matthew et al. 1996; Morris et al. 1981; Woinarski 1987). It does not appear to undertake any regular long-distance movements (Emison et al. 1987), but there have been occasional reports of Red-lored Whistlers in atypical habitat far away from their usual range, which suggests that some long-distance dispersal may occur (Hackett & Hackett 1986; Matthew et al. 1996; Parker 1984).

The home range of the Red-lored Whistler has not been described. Pairs are thought to occupy large territories throughout most of the year (Hunt 1976; Woinarski 1987). Territory size has not been recorded, but the species has been found in low densities at sites in South Australia and Victoria (the maximum density recorded at any one site was 0.2 birds/ha) (Woinarski 1987).

The Red-lored Whistler could be confused with Gilbert's Whistler, or possibly with other whistlers, particularly if it is in immature plumage. However, experienced observers should be capable of distinguishing adult and juvenile Red-lored Whistlers from other whistler species (Higgins & Peter 2002).

The Red-lored Whistler can be detected by sight, or by its call, which is said to be loud and capable of carrying over a long distance (Clarke 1999; Higgins & Peter 2002; Magrath et al. 2004). It is described as shy, secretive and inconspicuous (Hatch 1977; Matthew et al. 1996), and can be difficult to approach closely (Matthew et al. 1996). It can be difficult to locate by sight, even from close range (Clarke 1999), and is more often heard than seen (Hatch 1977).

The extensive clearance of mallee vegetation that occurred during the 19th and 20th centuries is believed to have been the main factor in the decline of the Red-lored Whistler (Garnett 1993; Matthew et al. 1996; Parker 1984; Woinarski 1987). It is claimed that at least half of the habitat of the species has been cleared (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The threat from clearing has diminished because broad-scale clearing no longer occurs in South Australia (Matthew et al. 1996) or Victoria and most of the remaining Red-lored Whistler populations occur on land that is managed for conservation purposes (Baker-Gabb 2005; Garnett & Crowley 2000). Even so, some clearing of mallee vegetation still occurs, and this may be having an ongoing impact upon some Red-lored Whistler populations (Baker-Gabb 2005; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Matthew et al. 1996). Furthermore, although clearing has subsided, the mallee vegetation that remains is fragmented into small and scattered patches (Baker-Gabb 2005; Woinarski 1987). This can prevent or limit the dispersal of sedentary species such the Red-lored Whistler, which in turn can increase the risk of extinction (Baker-Gabb 2005). The poor survival of populations in small fragments of habitat is demonstrated by the probable extinction of the Red-lored Whistler in the 145 ha Pulletop Nature Reserve (Baker-Gabb 2005; Barrett et al. 2003; Chapman 1990), and the absence of the species from some small (180 to 1500 ha) habitat fragments near Billiatt Conservation Park that, based on the habitat available and the proximity of extant populations in Billiatt Conservation Park,would formerly have been occupied (Clarke 2004b).

The current major threat to the Red-lored Whistler is fire. Fire could potentially impact on whistler populations in two ways: by destroying areas of habitat, and the populations that inhabit them; and by altering the structure and composition of vegetation, thus reducing the suitability of habitat for occupation by the whistler, which displays a preference for vegetation that has remained unburt for at least five years (Baker-Gabb 2005; Clarke 2005a; Matthew et al. 1996; Sluiter & O'Neill 1996; Woinarski 1987). There is a high risk that whistler populations will be exposed to fire: their preferred habitat, mallee vegetation, is described as fire-prone (Baker-Gabb 2005), and may be capable of supporting a wildfire every 10 to 20 years (Noble 1984). Furthermore, single large-scale wildfires in mallee areas can burn hundreds of thousands of hectares of vegetation (Noble 1984) and, thus, are capable of affecting large numbers of birds (Baker-Gabb 2005). For example, 90% of Billiatt Conservation Park was rendered unsuitable by fire in 1988, and large tracts of habitat in Ngarkat Conservation Park and the Big Desert were also made uninhabitable because of fires between 1986 to 1988 (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

Other potential threats include harvesting of mallee vegetation, illegal collection of eggs, degradation of habitat by grazing mammalian herbivores, predation, and displacement by Gilbert's Whistler.

Mallee harvesting operations occur in several tracts of mallee, and could possibly impact on the species by disturbing the birds, particularly during the breeding season, or by increasing the risk of exposure to other potential threats such predators, invasive weeds or pathogens (Baker-Gabb 2005). However, a study has shown that harvesting operations probably have little impact on the Red-lored Whistler, and that they may in fact be beneficial if they reduce the height of shrub foliage and encourage regrowth, and thus help to maintain habitats within the range of structural or age classes that are preferred by the whistler (Woinarski 1987).

Grazing by mammalian herbivores, and predation, mainly by introduced animals such as foxes, are known to occur in mallee habitats and to impact upon mallee birds, but neither of these processes have been directly linked to the Red-lored Whistler. No information is available on the illegal collection of Red-lored Whistler eggs (Baker-Gabb 2005).

Over a period of more than 20 years, the Red-lored Whistler has been replaced by Gilbert's Whistler in some areas of mallee in South Australia. This is attributed to changes in habitat (Garnett & Crowley 2000). However, it is not known whether it was meant that the Red-lored Whistler abandoned these areas after the habitat changed, and then was replaced by Gilbert's Whistler, or if the change in habitat led to competition between the two species, to the detriment of the Red-lored Whistler.

Severe drought may be a threat to the Red-lored Whistler. There is no evidence to suggest that population eruptions occur following extended periods of above average seasonal conditions as occurs in some species that occupy semi-arid environments. Nonetheless, as with many other resident species, the Red-lorded Whistler is likely to exhibit increased breeding success in response to favourable conditions such as periods of above-average rainfall, and decreased success in response to unfavourable conditions such as prolonged drought (R. Clarke 2006, pers. comm.).

The long-term survival of the Red-lored Whistler depends on the maintenance of its mallee habitat, and on limiting the incidence, and mitigating the impacts, of clearing and wildfire (Baker-Gabb 2005; Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The following recovery actions have been implemented, from Baker-Gabb (2005):

  • Surveys of mallee biodiversity have been conducted in New South Wales (Mazzer et al. 1998; Val et al. 2001), Victoria (Robertson et al. 1989) and South Australia (Forward & Robinson 1996), and management recommendations have been formulated based on the results of these surveys.

  • The area of mallee held in conservation reserves in New South Wales has been increased from 193 000 ha (Noble 1984) to approximately 450 000 ha, due mainly to the establishment of Nombinnie and Tarawi Nature Reserves, and the privately-owned Scotia Sanctuary.

  • The area of mallee held in conservation reserves in Victoria has been increased from 313 000 ha (Noble 1984) to more than 1 100 000 ha.

  • The area of mallee held in conservation reserves in South Australia has been increased from 270 000 ha (Noble 1984) to more than 800 000 ha. This has been achieved through the addition of a further 164 000 ha of mallee to the state reserve system since 1984, and the purchase of Calperum, Gluepot and Taylorville Stations, which comprise a substantial area (more than 400 000 ha) of mallee and house a large population of the Red-lored Whistler, for conservation purposes between 1994 and 1999.

  • The ecology of the Red-lored Whistler has been studied in Broombush Melaleuca uncinata vegetation in Victoria (Woinarski 1987).

  • Information on the habitat preferences of the Red-lored Whistler, in relation to the time since habitats were last burnt, has been summarised by Silveira (1993).

  • A national recovery plan is being prepared (Baker-Gabb 2005), and key management documents have been formulated for each state in which the Red-lored Whistler occurs (Clarke 2005b; Silveira 2000).

  • Population surveys were conducted in 2003 in and around Billiatt Conservation Park, Ngarkat Conservation Park and Mount Rescue Conservation Park (Clarke 2004b; Gates 2003).

  • Population surveys were conducted in 2001 in and around Scotia Sanctuary (Clarke 2002), and in 2003 in and around Mallee Cliffs National Park and Mungo National Park, in New South Wales (Clarke 2004a).

  • A study on the ecology of the Red-lored Whistler was begun in 2004 by a student at Adelaide University.

  • A fire management plan has been prepared for Riverland Biosphere Reserve.

  • The habitat requirements of the Red-lored Whistler have been assessed by landscape-scale modelling (Clarke 2005a).

In addition to the actions listed above, the Red-lored Whistler has also benefited from general efforts to protect and enhance the quality of native vegetation, such as the introduction of native vegetation clearance controls, improved fire management, and the elimination of artificial water points within conservation reserves (Baker-Gabb 2005).

The following recovery actions have been recommended, from Baker-Gabb (2005) and Garnett and Crowley (2000):

  • Determine the genetic relationships between geographically separated populations.

  • Survey and map mallee habitats to improve knowledge on the distribution, habitat requirements and threats, and to identify important areas of habitat that are, or may be, at risk.

  • Determine the impact of habitat fragmentation, the role that fire and clearing plays in habitat fragmentation, and the requirements for survival in a fragmented landscape (such as the effect of patch size, and establishing what constitutes a functional corridor to allow dispersal).

  • Establish monitoring programs to estimate population sizes and track population trends.

  • Provide support for research on the ecology of the Red-lored Whistler. The priority should be research on the ecology of the species in habitats other than Broombush vegetation.

  • Determine the need for population translocations, and develop a re-introduction program if necessary.

  • Assess the ability of the current reserve system to maintain and conserve populations of the Red-lored Whistler, determine if any important habitat occurs outside of the reserve system, and promote and encourage the purchase of land with high conservation values to enlarge the reserve system and enhance the long-term prospects of the species.

  • Determine the impact of fire regimes, and develop and apply suitable fire management plans.

  • Ensure that all areas of mallee that are important to the species are maintained and managed for the benefit of the Red-lored Whistler and other endangered mallee birds. This could be achieved by promoting the need for habitat protection in New South Wales (where broad-scale clearing of mallee still occurs), ensuring that the habitat requirements of the whistler are incorporated into relevant land management plans, promoting the need for conservation among the community and relevant land managers, and promoting the acquisition of key areas of mallee for inclusion into the reserve system.

  • Reduce the impact of grazing by mammalian herbivores by decommissioning or fencing artificial water points in reserves, encouraging land owners to remove artificial water when it is not needed, improving control programs for feral herbivores in habitat on public land, and promoting the use of sealed tanks.

  • Determine the impact of harvesting operations, and amend harvesting protocols if necessary.

  • Encourage the community to become involved in the recovery effort.

  • Liaise with private landowners to promote the need to adopt appropriate land management strategies, and to provide information and assist in the implementation of these strategies, for the conservation of Red-lored Whistler.

The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of Sustainability and Environment (Victoria) and the Department for the Environment and Heritage (South Australia) have been invloved in the conservation efforts for the Red-lored Whistler. The Department of Environment and Heritage also has a role in the conservation of the species on the government-owned land in Riverland Biosphere Reserve (i.e. Calperum and Taylorville Stations) (R. Clarke 2006, pers. comm.).

The Lower Mallee Land Management Group (SA) received $3,300 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2002-03, part of which was for the protection of Red-lored Whistler populations through the establishment of a fox control program, continued monitoring, and enhancement of native habitat.

The Australian Landscape Trust (SA) received $15 000 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2002-03, part of which was for a reduction in the number of artificial watering points within habitat by closing station dams, as well as a co-operative regional effort by several property owners to protect the habitat of this species.

Detailed studies have been conducted on the Red-lored Whistler by Woinarski (1987), Matthew and colleagues (Matthew et al. 1996) and Clarke (2005a), and another, as yet unpublished study was begun in 2004 by a student at Adelaide University (Baker-Gabb 2005).

A recovery plan has been prepared for the populations of the Red-lored Whistler, Mallee Emu-wren Stipiturus mallee, Striated Grasswren Amytornis striatus and Western Whipbird (eastern) Psophodes nigrogularis lecuogaster that occur in the Murray-Darling Basin in South Australia (Clarke 2005b).

A draft recovery plan has been prepared for the Red-lored Whistler, Western Whipbird (eastern) and Mallee Emu-wren at the national level (Baker-Gabb 2005).

A draft recovery plan has been prepared for the populations of the Red-lored Whistler, Striated Grasswren, Shy Heathwren Hylacola cauta, Southern Scrub-robin Drymodes brunneopygia and Chestnut Quail-thrush Cinclosoma castanotus that occur in New South Wales (Baker-Gabb 2005).

An action statement has been prepared to guide the management of the Red-lored Whistler in Victoria (Silveira 2000).

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].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat loss and modification due to clearance of native vegetation and pasture improvements The Impact of Global Warming on the Distribution of Threatened Vertebrates (ANZECC 1991) (Dexter, E.M., A.D. Chapman & J.R. Busby, 1995) [Report].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat and/or subpopulations Pachycephala rufogularis in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006qf) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Vulpes vulpes (Red Fox, Fox) The threat posed by pest animals to biodiversity in New South Wales (Coutts-Smith, A.J., P.S. Mahon, M. Letnic & P.O. Downey, 2007) [Management Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Felis catus (Cat, House Cat, Domestic Cat) The threat posed by pest animals to biodiversity in New South Wales (Coutts-Smith, A.J., P.S. Mahon, M. Letnic & P.O. Downey, 2007) [Management Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Pachycephala rufogularis in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006qf) [Internet].

Attwood, R. (1977). Birds recorded at Mount Rescue Conservation Park. South Australian Ornithologist. 27:173-175.

Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS) (1998). Recovery round-up. Corella. 22:126-128.

Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS) (1999). Recovery round-up. Corella. 23:51-52.

Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS) (2000). Recovery round-up. Corella. 24:51-52.

Baker-Gabb, D. (2005). Recovery Plan for the Mallee Emu-wren Stipiturus mallee, Red-lored Whistler Pachycephala rufogularis, Western Whipbird Psophodes nigrogularis leucogaster, and Other Threatened Mallee Birds. Natural Heritage Trust, Canberra.

Barrett, G., A. Silcocks, S. Barry, R. Cunningham & R. Poulter (2003). The New Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Birds Australia.

Blakers, M., S.J.J.F. Davies & P.N. Reilly (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Melbourne University Press.

Bridges, L. (1992). Breeding biology of the Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris): mate choice and delayed plumage maturation. Ph.D. Thesis. University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales.

Chapman, G.S. (1990). Profile: the Red-lored Whistler. Birds International. 2:20--25.

Chisholm, A.H. (1946). Observations and reflections on birds of the Victorian Mallee. Emu. 46:168-186.

Christidis, L. & W.E. Boles (1994). The Taxonomy and Species of Birds of Australia and its Territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union Monograph 2. Melbourne, Victoria: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

Clarke, R. (1999). Gluepot Reserve: haven for threatened mallee birds. Wingspan. 9(2):18-23.

Clarke, R. (2002). Threatened Bird Species Recorded on Scotia Sanctuary, New South Wales. Unpublished report by La Trobe University to New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dubbo.

Clarke, R. (2004). Threatened Bird Species Recorded Within the Billiatt and Ngarkat Conservation Park Complexes, South Australia, Spring 2003. Unpublished report to Department for Environment and Heritage, Adelaide.

Clarke, R. (2004a). Threatened Bird Species Recorded Within Mallee Cliffs and Mungo National Parks New South Wales, November 2004. Unpublished report by La Trobe University to New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dubbo.

Clarke, R. (2005a). Ecological Requirements of Birds Specializing in Mallee Habitats. Unpublished La Trobe University report to the Department for Environment and Heritage, Adelaide, Department of Sustainability and Environment, Melbourne, and New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dubbo.

Clarke, R. (2005b). Recovery Plan for the Mallee Emu-wren Stipiturus mallee, Striated Grasswren Amytornis striatus,Red-lored Whistler Pachycephala rufogularis and Western Whipbird Psophodes nigrogularis lecuogaster, South Australian Murray Darling Basin. Department for Environment and Heritage, Adelaide.

Clarke, R. (2006). Personal communication.

Cooper, R.M. & I.A.W. McAllan (1995). The Birds of Western New South Wales. Preliminary Atlas. Albury, NSW: NSW Bird Atlassers.

Eckert, J. (1972). Extension of the range of the Red-lored Whistler (Pachycephala rufogularis) and comments on some birds of the north-east of South Australia. South Australian Ornithologist. 26:38--39.

Emison, W.B. & W.M. Bren (1989). Common birds of the Mallee region of north-western Victoria. In: Noble, J.C., & R.A. Bradstock, eds. Mediterranean Landscapes in Australia: Mallee Ecosystems and Their Management. Page(s) 221-242. CSIRO Publications, Melbourne.

Emison,W.B., C.M. Beardsell, F.I. Norman, R.H. Loyn & S.C. Bennett (1987). Atlas of Victorian Birds. Melbourne: Department of Conservation (Forest & Lands) & Royal Australian Ornithological Union.

Erickson, R. (1951). Notes on Rufous Whistlers. Emu. 51:153-165.

Forward, L. & A. Robinson (1996). A Biological Survey of the South Olary Plains South Australia. SA Dept Environment & Natural Resources, Adelaide.

Garnett, S.T., ed. (1993). Threatened and Extinct Birds of Australia. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union Report 82 2nd (corrected) Edition. Melbourne: Royal Australian Ornithology Union and Canberra: Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service.

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.

Gates, J.A. (2003). Ecology of Threatened Mallee Birds in Billiatt Conservation Park: Baseline Distribution and Abundance Surveys, 2003. Unpublished report to Wildlife Conservation Fund, Adelaide.

Hackett, J. & M. Hackett (1986). A Red-lored Whistler in the Manning Reserve, Mount Lofty Range. South Australian Ornithologist. 30:52--53.

Hatch, J.H. (1977). The birds of Comet Bore (Ninety-mile Plain). South Australian Ornithologist. 27:163-172.

Higgins, P.J. & J.M. Peter (2002b). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. In: Pardalotes to Shrike-thrushes. Volume 6. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

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

Howe, F.E. (1928). Notes on some Victorian birds. Emu. 27:252--265.

Hunt, T. (1976). Birds in the Big Desert region of Victoria and South Australia. Victorian Ornithological Research Group Notes. 12(2):3-13.

Hunt, T. (1979). Habitat preferences of birds in the Big Desert. V.O.R.G. Notes. 15:43-53.

Lea, A.M. & J.T. Gray (1935). The food of Australian birds: an analysis of the stomach contents. Part 2. Emu. 35:63-98.

Lindsey, T.R. (1981). New South Wales Bird Report for 1980. Australian Birds. 16:1-23.

Lindsey, T.R., ed. (1984). New South Wales Bird Report for 1982. Australian Birds. 18:37-69.

Magrath, M.J.L., M.A. Weston, P. Olsen & M. Antos (2004). Draft Survey Standards for Birds: Species Accounts. Melbourne, Victoria: Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage by Birds Australia.

Matthew, J.S., G. Carpenter & T. Croft (1996). Revision of the distribution of the Red-lored Whistler in South Australia. South Australian Ornithologist. 32:103--107.

Matthew, J.S., T. Croft & G. Carpenter (1995). A record of the Red-lored Whistler on Eyre Peninsula. South Australian Ornithologist. 32:39--40.

Mazzer, T., M. Ellis, J. Smith, D. Ayers, M. Cooper, G. Wallace & A. Langdon (1998). The Fauna of Western New South Wales: The Southern Mallee Region. New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney.

Menkhorst, P.W. & A.F. Bennett (1990). Vertebrate fauna of mallee vegetation in southern Australia. In: J.C. Noble, P.J. Jones & G.K. Jones, eds. The Mallee Lands: A Conservation Perspective. Proceedings of the National Mallee Conference, Adelaide, April 1989. Page(s) 39-53. CSIRO Canberra.

Noble, J.C. (1984). Mallee. In: Harrington, G.N., A.D. Wilson, & M.J. Young, eds. Management of Australia's Rangelands. Page(s) 223-240. CSIRO, Melbourne.

Parker, S.A. (1984). Remarks on some results of John Gould's visit to South Australia in 1839. South Australian Ornithologist. 29:109--112.

Parsons, F.E. & J.N. McGilp (1935). The two red-throated whistlers. Emu. 35:113--126.

Pedler, L.P. (1982). Red-lored Whistler on Calperum Station, northern Murray Mallee. South Australian Ornithologist. 29:26.

Robertson, P., A.F. Bennett, L.F. Lumsden, C.E. Silveira, P.G. Johnson, A.L. Yen, G.A. Milledge, P.K. Lillywhite & H.J. Pribble (1989). Fauna of the Mallee Study Area, North-west Victoria. Arthur Rylah Institute Technical Report. Arthur Rylah Institute Technical Report 87. Melbourne: Arthur Rylah Institute.

Schodde, R. (1965). Observations on new distribution and habitat of five Australian land birds. Emu. 64:204-208.

Schodde, R. & I.J. Mason (1999). The Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines. Melbourne, Victoria: CSIRO.

Silveira, C.E. (1993). The Recovery Plan for Australia's Threatened Mallee Birds - Addressing Fire as a Threatening Process: Research Phase. Report to Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Canberra. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, Melbourne.

Silveira, C.E. (2000a). Red-lored Whistler Pacycephala rufogularis. Flora and Fauna Guarantee Action Statement. Natural Resources and Environment, Melbourne.

Sluiter, I.R.K. & G.C. O'Neill (1996). An additional record of the Red-lored Whistler from the northern Murray Mallee. South Australian Ornithologist. 32:110--111.

Smith, P.J., J.E. Smith, R.L. Pressey & G.L. Whish (1995). Birds of Particular Conservation Concern in the Western Division of New South Wales: Distribution, Habitats and Threats. NSW NPWS, Hurstville.

Stove, K. (1994). A Second Bird Atlas of the Adelaide Region. Part 2. South Australian Ornithologist. 31:195-265.

Sutton, J. (1929). A trip to the Murray mallee. South Australian Ornithologist. 10:22-45.

Val, J., E. Foster & M. Le Breton (2001). Biodiversity Survey of the Lower Murray Darling. New South Wales Department of Land and Water Conservation, Buronga, New South Wales.

Woinarski, J.C.Z. (1987). Notes on the status and ecology of the Red-lored Whistler Pachycephala rufogularis. Emu. 87:224--231.

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Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Pachycephala rufogularis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Thu, 17 Apr 2014 05:33:17 +1000.