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
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Listing Advice on Epthianura crocea tunneyi (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2006ek) [Listing Advice].
 
Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Epthianura crocea tunneyi (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008yf) [Conservation Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, included on the Not 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
Inclusion of species in the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (49) (23/11/2006) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2006a) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory: Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers subspecies) (Woinarski, J. & M. Armstrong, 2006) [Information Sheet].
State Listing Status
NT: Listed as Endangered (Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000 (Northern Territory): 2012)
Non-statutory Listing Status
NGO: Listed as Endangered (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Epthianura crocea tunneyi [67089]
Family Meliphagidae:Passeriformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author  
Infraspecies author Mathews, 1912
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

Scientific name: Epthianura crocea tunneyi

Common name: Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers)

Other names: at the species level, also known as the Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-breasted Bush-chat and Yellow-breasted Nun (Higgins et al. 2001).

The Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) is a conventionally accepted subspecies of Epthianura crocea (Keast 1958f; Schodde & Mason 1999). However, the present taxonomic arrangement is based on poorly understood morphological differences between a small number of preserved specimens (Schodde & Mason 1999).

The Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) is a small bird 11–12 cm in length and 9.0–9.5 g in weight (Higgins et al. 2001). The adult male breeding plumage is golden-yellow with a narrow black stripe across each lore, a brownish-olive back marked with dark-brown streaks, brown wings with yellow-white margins to the feathers, a broad black crescent-shaped bar on the breast and a mostly black and grey tail. The adult female breeding plumage is broadly similar to the adult male in breeding plumage but is a paler yellow colour with an olive-brown crown and without the prominent black bar on the breast (Higgins et al. 2001; Schodde & Mason 1999).

The non-breeding plumages is likely to be similar to those of Epthianura crocea crocea, in which the plumages of adults of both sexes are generally duller and paler in the non-breeding period. The plumages of juvenile and immature birds are likely to be similar to E. c. crocea, in which the plumages of juvenile and immature birds are very similar to adults (Higgins et al. 2001).

The Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) is endemic to the Northern Territory, where it has been recorded from Darwin to Oenpelli, including Knuckey Lagoon, Harrison Dam and the floodplains of the Adelaide, Mary, Wildman, South Alligator and East Alligator Rivers (Armstrong 2004; Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Barrett et al. 2003; Blakers et al. 1984; Deignan 1964; TSSC 2006ek; Woinarski & Armstrong 2006).

The extent of occurrence is estimated to be 1700 km², which is suspected to be stable and with no evidence of decline (Garnett et al. 2011).

The area of occupancy is estimated to be 170 km², which is possibly decreasing (Garnett et al. 2011), although the paucity of records makes it hard to determine trends. In 2004, a field survey in Kakadu National Park failed to locate the subspecies at some sites where it had been recorded previously, but this may have been due to seasonal variation (Armstrong 2004).

There has been only one systematic field survey for the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) and this was confined to sites within Kakadu National Park (Armstrong 2004). The distribution is otherwise known only from a small number of opportunistic records (Barrett et al. 2003; Blakers et al. 1984; Deignan 1964).

The total population size of the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) is estimated to be 500 breeding birds and historically the subspecies was more abundant (Garnett et al. 2011). A population of less than 300 individuals is present in Kakadu National Park (Armstrong 2004). The subspecies is considered to occur in a single contiguous breeding population because of its mobility (Garnett & Crowley 2000), but it is possible that small resident subpopulations could occur on floodplains associated with each river system between Adelaide River to East Alligator River (Woinarski & Armstrong 2006).

The Yellow Chat (Alligator River) has been recorded in Harrison Dam reserve, Mary River National Park and Kakadu National Park (Armstrong 2004; Woinarski & Armstrong 2006).

The Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) occurs around channels and depressions on seasonally inundated floodplains (Armstrong 2004; Deignan 1964). In the dry season, it has been observed in areas of exposed mud or clay with or without a sparse (up to 50%) cover of grasses, sedges and forbs, such as Hymenachne acutigluma, Ludwigia adscendens, Ipomoea aquatica, Sesbania sesban and species of Cyperus and Eleocharis. The species' habitat preferences in the wet season are less well known, but all of the few records of nesting from Kakadu National Park have been in low mangroves on the margins of tidal channels (Armstrong 2004).

Observations of the closely related White-fronted Chat (Epthianura albifrons) suggest the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) might be capable of breeding at one year of age (Major 1991). Breeding behaviour of the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) is undocumented except for single breeding records in September, March and April and a few additional records of nests built near (usually less than one metre above) the ground in low mangroves (Armstrong 2004).

Based on observations of the other subspecies, it is proposed that the Yellow Chat builds a cup-shaped nest from grass and plant stems in a tussock of grass, clump of sedge, thistle or lignum. It produces clutches of three or four eggs that are white with small blackish-red spots (Higgins et al. 2001; Jaensch 1989; North 1901-1904; Storr 1977, 1984c). The chicks are fed by both parents and may leave the nest at 11–12 days of age (Higgins et al. 2001).

The diet of the Yellow Chat consists of insects (including ants, beetles, bugs, flies, moths and caterpillars) and spiders (Barker & Vestjens undated; Ford & Parker 1974; Higgins et al. 2001; MacGillivray 1914; Reynolds et al. 1982). Foraging behaviour is likely to be similar to other subspecies of the Yellow Chat, which pick prey items from the ground, grass stems from branches of trees, bark and foliage (Higgins et al. 2001). Very occasionally they may sally for flying insects (Reynolds et al. 1982).

The Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) occurs singly, in pairs and in small groups of up to 15 birds (Armstrong 2004). Movements are little known and poorly understood (Armstrong 2004; Higgins et al. 2001). At a local scale, populations appear to contract into wetter areas of floodplains in the dry season (Armstrong 2004; Deignan 1964), and presumably expand into breeding sites on the levees of nearby tidal rivers and channels as the extent of inundation increases at the beginning of the wet season (Armstrong 2004). At a regional scale, individuals on the lower coastal plains and perhaps elsewhere are probably able to move across larger distances and between catchments (Armstrong 2004).

No specific information is available on the territories of the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers), but pairs are likely to hold and aggressively defend a territory in the breeding season, with most defense associated with males guarding eggs, chicks or fertile females; as observed in other species of Epthianura (Major 1989; Williams 1979). The Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers), may forage up to 800 m from their nests when feeding young in the nest (Major 1989; White 1950).

The Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) is unlikely to be confused with any other species that occurs in the northern region of the Northern Territory (Higgins et al. 2001). It is reported to spend most of its time in the cover of vegetation and to fly distances approaching 100 metres to reach new cover when flushed (Deignan 1964).

The recommended method to survey for the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) is to conduct area searches or transect surveys in suitable habitat. It is recommended that surveys be conducted in the dry season when access to floodplains is greatest and birds are likely to be concentrated into smaller areas of habitat. However, surveys could also be conducted in the wet season at locations where tidal waterways provide access to breeding sites (Armstrong 2004). Full details are available in the Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds (DEWHA 2010l).

The Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) may be adversely affected by habitat degradation, inappropriate fire, saltwater intrusion and predation.

Habitat is degraded by the Cow (Bos taurus) grazing, the Water Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) grazing and the Pig (Sus scrofa) rooting and wallowing. Armstrong (2004) did not record the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) in habitat that had been damaged by feral Pigs, but was otherwise suitable. The impact is magnified as both feral Pigs and Yellow Chats (Alligator Rivers) concentrate into wetter areas of floodplains during the dry season (Armstrong 2004).

Habitat is also degraded by introduced plants such as Mimosa pigra, Brachiaria mutica and Andropogon gayanus, which alter the structure and composition of the floodplain vegetation, which in turn can reduce the extent of suitable habitat for the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) and might also alter the availability of its invertebrate prey. Well-established patches of B. mutica are present on the floodplains of the Wildman, South Alligator and East Alligator Rivers, and patches of Hymenachne amplexicaulis in these regions are being controlled (Armstrong 2004). The floodplains of the Adelaide and Mary Rivers have been invaded by introduced grasses and M. pigra (Armstrong 2004; Armstrong et al. 2002).

The application of inappropriate fire regimes could render habitat unsuitable or less suitable for the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) and/or its invertebrate prey (Armstrong 2004).

The intrusion of saltwater into floodplain communities could also have a deleterious impact on the habitat of the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers). Unnatural incidences of saltwater intrusion have occurred on the upper regions of the South Alligator River floodplain, but these intrusions have been negated by the construction of barriers across newly-formed channels and the control of feral animals. The impact of any further intrusions could be reduced by maintaining continued access to adequate areas of freshwater habitat (Armstrong 2004).

The tendency to build close to the ground could render nests vulnerable to flooding and to potential predators such as the Water Python (Liasis fuscus), the Mangrove Monitor (Varanus indicus), the Dingo (Canis lupis) and the Cat (Felis catus) (Armstrong 2004). However, feral Cats appear to be sparsely distributed on the margins of floodplains and levees in Kakadu National Park (Armstrong 2004), and as such would appear unlikely to be having a major impact on the chat population within the park.

No recovery actions have been implemented for the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers), but the following actions have been recommended:

  • Develop and implement a program to monitor the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) population (Armstrong 2004; Garnett et al. 2011).
  • Maintain suitable habitat by implementing control programs for weeds and feral Pigs, especially in areas inhabited by the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) and in areas adjacent to occupied habitat (Armstrong 2004; Garnett et al. 2011).
  • A management plan be developed to identify suitable fire regimes to manage and reduce the potential for wild fires (TSSC 2008yf).
  • Maintain grazing at levels on pastoral properties that do not cause habitat deterioration (Garnett et al. 2011).

Management documents relevant to the Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers) are at the start of the profile.

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:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Epthianura crocea tunneyi (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008yf) [Conservation Advice].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat alteration (vegetation, soil, hydrology) due to trampling and grazing by livestock Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Epthianura crocea tunneyi (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008yf) [Conservation Advice].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat loss and modification due to clearance of native vegetation and pasture improvements The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley, 2000) [Cwlth Action Plan].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Loss of terrestrial climatic habitat caused by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2001u) [Listing Advice].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Sea level rise:Inundation associated with climate change Inundation study (Environmental Resources Information Network, 2007) [Database].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Mimosa pigra (Mimosa, Giant Mimosa, Giant Sensitive Plant, ThornySensitive Plant, Black Mimosa, Catclaw Mimosa, Bashful Plant) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Epthianura crocea tunneyi (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008yf) [Conservation Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Hymenachne amplexicaulis (Hymenachne, Olive Hymenachne, Water Stargrass, West Indian Grass, West Indian Marsh Grass) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Epthianura crocea tunneyi (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008yf) [Conservation Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Epthianura crocea tunneyi (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008yf) [Conservation Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Felis catus (Cat, House Cat, Domestic Cat) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Epthianura crocea tunneyi (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008yf) [Conservation Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Sus scrofa (Pig) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Epthianura crocea tunneyi (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008yf) [Conservation Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Epthianura crocea tunneyi (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008yf) [Conservation Advice].
Pollution:Pollution:Declining water quality (salinity, nutrient and/or turbitity) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Epthianura crocea tunneyi (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008yf) [Conservation Advice].

Armstrong, M. (2004). The Yellow Chat Epthianura crocea tunneyi in Kakadu National Park. Report to Parks Australia (North), Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment, Darwin.

Armstrong, M., J. Woinarski, C. Hempel, G. Connors & K. Beggs (2002). A Plan for the Conservation of Biodiversity in the Mary River Catchment, Northern Territory. Darwin: Parks and Wildlife, Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment.

Barker, R.D. & W.J.M. Vestjens (undated(a)). The Food of Australian Birds. Passerines. 2. CSIRO, 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.

Deignan, H.G. (1964). Birds of the Arnhem Land Expedition. Records of the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land. In: Specht, R.L. (Ed.)., ed. Zoology. Volume:345-426. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Ford, J.R. & S.A. Parker (1974). Distribution and taxonomy of some birds from south-western Queensland. Emu. 74:177-194.

Garnett, S., J. Szabo & G. Dutson (2011). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010. CSIRO Publishing.

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.

Higgins, P.J., J.M. Peter & W.K. Steele, eds. (2001). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 5: Tyrant-flycatchers to Chats. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Jaensch, R.P. (1989). Birds of wetlands and grasslands of the Kimberley Division, Western Australia, 1986-8. RAOU Report. 61. RAOU, Canning Bridge WA.

Keast, A. (1958f). The relationship between seasonal movements and the development of geographic variation in the Australian Chats Epthianura Gould and Ashbyia North (Passeres: Muscicapidae, Malurinae). Australian Journal of Zoology. 6:53-58.

MacGillivray, W. (1914). Notes on some north Queensland birds. Emu. 13:133--186.

Major, R.E. (1989). Population ecology of the White-fronted Chat (Ephthianura albifrons Jardine & Selby) near Melbourne, Australia. Ph.D. Thesis. PhD thesis, Monash University.

Major, R.E. (1991). Breeding biology of the White-fronted Chat Ephthianura albifrons in a saltmarsh near Melbourne. Emu. 91:236-249.

North, A.J. (1901-1904). Nests and Eggs of Birds Found Breeding in Australia and Tasmania Special Catalogue 1. Volume 1. Sydney: Australian Museum.

Reynolds, I.S., J.C. Walter & P.F. Woodall (1982). Observations on Yellow Chats Ephthianura crocea in western Queensland. Sunbird. 12:21-29.

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

Storr, G.M. (1977). Birds of the Northern Territory. Special Publications of the Western Australian Museum. 7:1-130.

Storr, G.M. (1984c). Revised list of Queensland birds. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement. 19:1-189.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (2006ek). Commonwealth Listing Advice on Epthianura crocea tunneyi. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/epthianura-crocea-advice.pdf.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (2008yf). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Epthianura crocea tunneyi. [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/67089-conservation-advice.pdf.

White, S.R. (1950). The breeding of Crimson Chats in the Morawa district in 1949. Western Australian Naturalist. 2:49-54.

Williams, C.K. (1979). Ecology of Australian chats (Ephianura Gould): reproduction in aridity. Australian Journal of Zoology. 27:213-229.

Woinarski, J. & M. Armstrong (2006). Threatened Species of the Northern Territory: Yellow Chat (Alligator Rivers subspecies). [Online]. Threatened Species Information Sheet, Parks and Wildlife Commission, Darwin. Available from: http://lrm.nt.gov.au/plants-and-animals/threatened-species/specieslist.

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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). Epthianura crocea tunneyi in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Sat, 19 Apr 2014 11:58:50 +1000.