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
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].
Documents and Websites
|State Listing Status||
|Non-statutory Listing Status||
|Scientific name||Pedionomus torquatus |
This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.
Scientific name: Pedionomus torquatus
Common name: Plains-wanderer
Other names: The Plains-wanderer has also been known as the Plain Wanderer, Collared Plains-wanderer, and Turkey Quail (Marchant & Higgins 1993).
The Plains-wanderer is a conventionally accepted species, and the sole member of the family Pedionomidae (Christidis & Boles 1994; Sibley & Monroe 1990).
The Plains-wanderer is a small, quail-like bird that, when fully grown, measures 15-19 cm in length, has a wing-span of 28-36 cm, and has a mass of 40-80 g in males and 55-95 g in females (Marchant & Higgins 1993).
In adult plumage, the sexes differ in appearance. The males are light brown or buff above, with white streaks and blackish scallops and vermiculations, and spots and streaks on the head and neck. They are mostly buff to orange-buff below, with blackish crescents, spots and streaks, but have a white and unmarked belly. They have a cream-coloured iris, a cream to pale yellow bill that has a dusky to dark-brown culmen (i.e. dorsal surface), and cream to pale yellow legs and feet (Marchant & Higgins 1993). The females have a broad black collar around the neck, with white streaks and spots, and a broad rufous patch on the upper breast. The females are also more brightly coloured than the males, and tend to be more yellow on the bill, iris, legs and feet, especially during the breeding season when the bill and legs can become orange-yellow (Marchant & Higgins 1993).
Juveniles are similar in appearance to adult males, but can be distinguished by the dark-brown spots on the breast, flanks and undertail coverts (in the adults, this area is marked with blackish crescents). They cannot be distinguished from the adult males after their post-juvenile moult is completed (Marchant & Higgins 1993).
The Plains-wanderer is usually seen singly, especially during the non-breeding season, but it may also occur in pairs and in small groups, which are almost always family parties, of up to five birds (Baker-Gabb 1987a; Bennett 1983; Harrington et al. 1988; Higgins & Marchant 1993).
The Plains-wanderer occurs at scattered sites in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and SA (Baker-Gabb 1990a; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Barrett et al. 2003; Bennett 1993). There also have been unconfirmed records of the species in the Northern Territory (Bennett 1983; Blakers et al. 1984).
The primary 'stronghold' of the species is the Riverina region of south-western NSW (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Bennett 1983). Most records of the Plain-wanderer in Australia over the past 20 years or so have been from the Riverina region, in the area bounded by Hay and Narrandera to the north, Cobb Highway to the west, Urana to the east, and Billabong Creek to the south (Baker-Gabb 1990a, 2002b; Maher 1997).
In Queensland, more than 80% of records have been made in the channel country in the far west of the state (Baker-Gabb 1990a, 2002b; Bennett 1983). These records are concentrated in the northern reaches of Astrebla Downs National Park (which was formerly part of Davenport Downs Station), the southern reaches of Diamantina Lakes National Park, and on Sandringham Station (Baker-Gabb 1990a, 2002a). There have been scattered records of the species in native grasslands extending east and south-west from this region (Baker-Gabb 1990a; Bennett 1983) and it is possible that these areas may harbour some important sites that have not yet been discovered (Baker-Gabb 2002b).
In Victoria, more than 70% of recent records of the Plains-wanderer have been made in the Patho Plains in north-central Victoria, which surrounds Terrick Terrick National Park (Baker-Gabb 2002b; Maher & Baker-Gabb 1993; Webster 1996a). The most important area for the species in Victoria is bounded by the Murray Valley highway to the north, the Northern Highway to the east, Birchup in the west, and the wooded foothills to the south (Baker-Gabb 2002b).
In South Australia, there have been recent records on the Willochra Plain north-east of Quorn, and in some adjacent areas of the southern Flinders Ranges, and north of the Barrier Highway (and west of Broken Hill) on Kalabity, Boolcoomatta and Mulyungarie Stations. The Plains-wanderer also irregularly occurs in the arid regions of northern South Australia during seasons of good rainfall (Webster 1996b).
The extent of occurrence is estimated to be 930 000 km2 (Garnett et al. 2011). This estimate is considered to have a high reliability.
The extent of occurrence is likely to be stable at present (Garnett et al. 2011), but it has declined markedly since European settlement. The distribution of the Plains-wanderer was formerly more widespread; there are historical records from central, south-western and south-eastern Queensland; eastern, central and western New South Wales, mainly in the south; central and western Victoria; and south-eastern and inland South Australia (Bennett 1983; Blakers et al. 1984; D'Ombrain 1926; Llewellyn 1975). The species is now mostly recorded from some smaller areas of critical habitat in south-western Queensland, south-western New South Wales, north-central Victoria, and north-eastern South Australia (Baker-Gabb 1990a, 2002b; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Bennett 1983). It is now absent, or present in such reduced numbers to be considered effectively extinct, from south-eastern Queensland, eastern New South Wales, south-western Victoria, and south-eastern South Australia (Baker-Gabb 2002b; Bennett 1983; Webster 1996a, 1996b).
The area of occupancy is estimated to be 330 km2 (Garnett et al. 2011). This estimate is considered to have a low reliability.
The area of occupancy is likely to be continuing to decline at present (Garnett et al. 2011), continuing a trend that has been evident for many years.
The Plains-wanderer has been recorded in 10 locations in eastern Australia (Baker-Gabb 1990a; Bennett 1983). However, the species is now routinely found at only four of these locations, these being south-western Queensland, south-western NSW, north-central Victoria, and north-eastern SA. The populations in south-western Queensland and north-east SA are likely to be relatively stable, but may be threatened in the longer term by overgrazing of grasslands during drought (Baker-Gabb 1998; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990). Plains-wanderer populations in south-western NSW and north-central Victoria appear to have undergone a severe recent decline due to the loss of preferred habitat following a period of extensive high rainfall (Parker & Baker-Gabb 2013; Radford et al. 2013).
The Plains-wanderer is not currently held in captivity (NPWS 2002b; ISIS 2006), although the species has been bred successfully in captivity in the past (Baker-Gabb 1987b; Crome & Rushton 1975; Ridley 1985). No population re-introductions have been attempted or proposed (Baker-Gabb 1995, 2002b; NPWS 2002b).
The distribution of the Plains-wanderer is severely fragmented. The Plains-wanderer occurs at a small number of sites scattered across south-eastern Australia (Baker Gabb 1990, 2002b; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Barrett et al. 2003; Bennett 1983). Its distribution is described as very patchy, even in the Riverina region of south-western New South Wales (Baker-Gabb 2002b) where the species is most numerous (Baker-Gabb 1998; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990).
This description of the distribution is supported by habitat mapping studies (Maher 1997; Roberts & Roberts 2001), one of which found that only 2.3% of the 2 280 000 ha of suitable habitat that was mapped in the Riverina region of NSW was likely to be occupied by the Plains-wanderer throughout the entire year (NPWS 2002b; Roberts & Roberts 2001).
The limits of the Plains-wanderer distribution and total population size are not well known due to the cryptic nature of the species. There have been detailed surveys and monitoring of the Plains-wanderer and the species' habitat in Queensland (Baker-Gabb 2002b), NSW (Maher 1997; Parker & Baker-Gabb 2013), Victoria (Beardsell 1990; Maher & Baker-Gabb 1993; Radford et al. 2013; Webster 1996a) and SA (Webster 1996b). However, the difficulty in detecting the species (Bennett 1983; Marchant & Higgins 1993) suggests that some birds or sites may go undetected, especially by casual observers. For example, the populations in Queensland and SA have been the subject of less survey effort than those in NSW and Victoria, and it is possible that some important but as yet undiscovered Plains-wanderer sites may occur in south-western and south-central Queensland and north-eastern South Australia (Baker-Gabb 1990a, 2002).
The total population size of the Plains-wanderer is difficult to estimate; however, based on the information that is available, it is thought to vary from about 2000 birds during widespread drought up to about 7000 birds following several successive seasons of favourable conditions (i.e. above-average rainfall and a moderate grazing pressure to maintain inter-tussock spaces) (Baker-Gabb 2002b).
This figure has been revised down from the previous population estimate of about 2500 birds during drought years and about 8000 birds during good conditions (Baker-Gabb 1998) because suitable habitat loss has continued (Baker-Gabb 2011; NPWS 2001; Webster 2000) and because recent surveys (Baker-Gabb 2002b; Maher 1997; Parker & Baker-Gabb 2013; Radford et al. 2013; Webster 2000) have shown that the Plains-wanderer is likely to be more scarce now than it was previously.
The Plains-wanderer is said to occur in a single widely-dispersed population, rather than in multiple populations (Garnett & Crowley 2000). However, based on the distribution and behaviour of the species, it is possible that there may be three separate populations, these being located in south-western Queensland, on the riverine plain of New South Wales and Victoria, and in north-eastern South Australia (D.J. Baker-Gabb 2006, pers. comm.).
There have been some estimates of regional population sizes which, although perhaps not true subpopulations, are worth repeating here. The population in the Riverina region of NSW may vary in size from about 1000 birds during drought years up to about 5500 birds following several successive seasons of favourable conditions (Baker-Gabb 2002b; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990). The population in south-western Queensland was estimated at 1000 birds (Baker-Gabb 2002b), while the north-central Victorian and South Australian populations are estimated at fewer than 500 birds (Maher & Baker-Gabb 1993; Baker-Gabb 2002b). No viable Plains-wanderer populations exist any longer in western Victoria (Webster 1996a) or in south-eastern South Australia (Webster 1996b).
The Plains-wanderer was formerly much more common and widespread (Bennett 1983; Blakers et al. 1984; D'Ombrain 1926; Llewellyn 1975), but its distribution and population size have declined markedly due to the loss and degradation of sparse, lowland native grasslands, which are its preferred habitat (Baker-Gabb 2002b; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Bennett 1983). The loss of habitat is ongoing (NPWS 2001; Webster 2000), and recent surveys (Maher 1997; Parker & Baker-Gabb 2013; Radford et al. 2013; Webster 2000) have shown that the species is likely to be more scarce now than it was in the 1990s (Baker-Gabb 2002b). The population is, therefore, likely to be declining (Garnett et al. 2011).
The size of the Plains-wanderer population is likely to vary with seasonal conditions. Based on the most recent estimates, the total population size of the Plains-wanderer is thought to fluctuate from about 2000 birds during widespread drought and overgrazing, up to about 7000 birds following several successive seasons of favourable conditions (Baker-Gabb 2002b).
The generation length of the Plains-wanderer is estimated to be 7.3 years, derived from first breeding at 1 year and a maximum longevity in the wild of 13.5 years (Birdlife International cited in Garnett et al. 2011).
There are four regions that support Plains-wanderers and habitat that is critical for their survival. The most important of these is the Riverina region in south-western New South Wales, which was estimated to support 50% or more of the total Plains-wanderer population (however, recent estimates suggest that the Riverina population has declined by 70%; Parker & Baker-Gabb 2013). The other three regions, which are considered to be of secondary importance, are central-western Queensland, north-central Victoria and north-eastern South Australia (Baker-Gabb 2002b).
No cross-breeding has been recorded between the Plains-wanderer and any other species. As the sole member of the genus Pedionomus, and the sole member of the family Pedionomidae (Christidis & Boles 1994; Sibley & Monroe 1990), it is unlikely that the Plains-wanderer cross-breeds with any other species.
No cross-breeding has been recorded between the Plains-wanderer and any other species. As the sole member of the genus Pedionomus, and the sole member of the family Pedionomidae (Christidis & Boles 1994; Sibley & Monroe 1990), it is unlikely that the Plains-wanderer cross-breeds with any other species.
The Plains-wanderer has mostly been recorded on privately-owned land (Maher & Baker-Gabb 1993; Maher 1997). No reserve is known to contain a viable population, but the species has been recorded in Diamantina Lakes National Park and Astrebla Downs National Park in Queensland, Willandra National Park (which is largely unsuitable) and Oolambeyan National Park in NSW, Terrick Terrick National Park in Victoria, and on Boolcoomatta Station in SA, which has been the site of many Plains-wanderer records in recent decades, and which has recently been added to the national reserve system (Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Baker-Gabb 1998; Baker-Gabb 2006, pers. comm.; NPWS 2002b). It also has been recorded, in small numbers, from some Travelling Stock Reserves (NPWS 2002b).
Oolambeyan National Park and Terrick Terrick National Park (NSW) both have specific and active management programs for the conservation of the Plains-wanderer, with periodic and ongoing light grazing by sheep used to help maintain a suitable grassland structure. Boolcoomatta Station will also be actively managed for the conservation of the Plains-wanderer (Baker-Gabb 2006, pers. comm.).
The Plains-wanderer inhabits sparse, treeless, lowland native grasslands with approximately 50% bare ground, most vegetation less than 5 cm in height, with some widely-spaced plants up to 30 cm high (Baker-Gabb 1987b, 1990b, 2002; Garnett et al. 2011; Harrington et al. 1988).
These sparse native grasslands usually occur on hard, red-brown clay soils that do not support dense pasture growth under any conditions. The (approximately) 50% cover typically consist of 40% grasses and herbs, and 10% organic litter. The majority of the vegetation is less than 5 cm tall, but larger plants, mostly up to 30 cm tall, and generally spaced 10 to 20 cm apart, are important because they provide shelter from predators. The grasslands can support a variety of ephemeral and perennial species of grasses and herbs including, in the Riverina region, Austrodanthonia caespitosa, Calocephalus sonderi, Chloris truncata, Vulpia myuros, Maireana pentagona, Austrostipa variabilis and Hordeum leporinum (different species are found in arid habitats). However, the composition of plant species in grasslands occupied by the Plains-wanderer is very similar to that found in dense native grasslands that are not occupied by the Plains-wanderer, which suggests that the structure of the grassland is more important than the species composition in determining its suitability for the Plains-wanderer (Baker-Gabb 1987b, 1990b, 2002; D.J. Baker-Gabb 2006, pers. comm.; Harrington et al. 1988; Llewellyn 1975).
The Plains-wanderer occasionally occurs in other types of habitat: it has been recorded in the stubble, and amongst low crops, of cereal grasses (Bennett 1983; Llewellyn 1975; Souter 1938; Sutton 1927), and in chenopod shrublands (Harrington et al. 1988).
The Plains-wanderer is known to actively avoid areas of dense grass or other vegetation (Radford et al. 2013).
The Plains-wanderer is not known to associate with any other listed threatened species of fauna. However, it does often occur in areas that support threatened species of grassland plants, such as the Red Darling-pea Swainsona plagiotropus and Slender Darling-pea S. murrayana, both of which are listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act 1999 (Baker-Gabb 1998, 2002; D.J. Baker-Gabb 2006, pers. comm.; Maher & Baker-Gabb 1993).
The Plains-wanderer has been recorded in two ecological communities that are currently being considered for listing under the EPBC Act 1999: the Murray Valley Grassland of the Riverina Bioregion, and the Western (Basalt) Plains Natural Temperate Grasslands in Victoria (D.J. Baker-Gabb 2006, pers. comm.). The grasslands of the Riverina region are home to the largest population of the Plains-wanderer in Australia (Baker-Gabb 2002; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990). The Plains-wanderer was formerly common in Western (Basalt) Plains Natural Temperate Grasslands, but this community has been reduced in extent by such a degree that the Plains-wanderer is now effectively extinct within the community (Baker-Gabb 2006, pers. comm.).
The Plains-wanderer is capable of breeding in its first year (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Crome & Rushton 1975; Ridley 1986). The life expectancy in the wild is unknown (Baker-Gabb 2002), but in captivity it is capable of surviving for at least eight years (Baker-Gabb 1993b).
The Plains-wanderer breeds in solitary pairs (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990). Evidence suggests that the species may have a polyandrous mating system in which individual females may mate with more than one male (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Harrington et al. 1988; NPWS 2002b).
Breeding has been recorded in most months of the year (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Bennett 1983; Harrington et al. 1988; Marchant & Higgins 1993). The nest is a hollow or 'scrape' that is scratched into the ground and lined with grass (Harrington et al. 1988; Keartland 1901; North 1913-1914; Souter 1938; Sutton 1927). In some instances nearby grasses may be pulled over the nest to form a concealing cone or tent (Harrington et al. 1988; Marchant & Higgins 1993). The nests are placed amongst native grasses and herbs, or sometimes amongst crops (Harrington et al. 1988; Howe 1928; North 1913-1914; Souter 1938; Sutton 1927).
Clutch-size is usually four (Bennett 1983; North 1913-1914), but can range from two to five (Bennett 1983). The male does most of the incubation during the 23 day incubation period (Baker-Gabb 1990b; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Bennett 1983; Ridley 1986). The young are attended by the male (Baker-Gabb 1990b; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990), and perhaps sometimes by the female (Marchant & Higgins 1993), and become independent at about two months of age (Baker-Gabb 1990b).
The Plains-wanderer is usually quite productive; at the completion of most breeding seasons, juvenile birds typically outnumber the adults by a ratio of three to two (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990). However, there may be no breeding during drought years, and success can be very low in years of heavy rainfall (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Harrington et al. 1988; Maher 1997). The females often produce a second clutch if there is sufficient rainfall during summer (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Harrington et al. 1988).
The Plains-wanderer feeds on a mixture of seeds, invertebrates and leaves. Seeds are taken from grasses (including species of Austrotipa, Sporobilis, Panicum, Austrodanthonia, Vulpia and Eragrostis), chenopods (including species of Atriplex, Maireana, Chenopodium and Sclerolaena) and other plants (such as species of Asperula, Galium, Spergularia, Carthamus and Euphorbia). The invertebrate food consists of insects (including beetles, ants, bugs, caterpillars and locusts) and spiders (Baker-Gabb 1988; Bennett 1983).
The major components of the diet (i.e. invertebrates, and seeds of grasses, chenopods and other plants) are taken throughout the year. However, the proportion of each major component varies slightly between seasons, depending on availability. For example, the proportion of invertebrates in the diet is greater in spring than in other seasons; the proportion of grass seeds is greatest in summer, and then declines through to spring; the proportion of chenopod seeds is fewer in summer than in other months; and the proportion of seeds of other plants is greater in winter than in other months (Baker-Gabb 1988).
The Plains-wanderer gleans (plucks) fallen seed and invertebrates from the ground, and from the bases of grass tussocks. It occasionally hammers its bill into compacted soil to expose invertebrates, or picks the tips off green leaves, and occasionally takes seeds from growing inflorescences. It forages during the day and at dusk in areas of sparse grass cover (Baker-Gabb 1988, 2002).
The Plains-wanderer is a sedentary species that may undertake some movements in response to changes in the suitability of habitat: most birds that have been banded have been recaptured within 400 m of their original banding sites, but the temporary absence of the species from grasslands that have been overgrazed (and thus rendered unsuitable), and a recorded movement of 40 km by one banded bird, suggest that birds may travel considerably further in search of suitable habitat (Baker-Gabb 2002; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Harrington et al. 1988).
The home range of the Plains-wanderer can vary in size from 7-21 ha (average size is 12 ha) in suitable habitat in the Riverina region (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990), but home ranges are almost certainly larger in more arid areas (D.J. Baker-Gabb 2006, pers. comm.). The home range of each bird in a breeding pair overlaps extensively (average overlap 55%) with that of its mate (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990). The size of the home range varies from year to year depending on seasonal conditions (Baker-Gabb 2002).
The precise size of territories has not been established, but neighbouring pairs occur 250-400 m apart (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990).
The Plains-wanderer is difficult to detect. It occurs at low densities, is usually seen singly, and is well-camoflauged in its preferred habitat (Bennett 1983; Marchant & Higgins 1993). It is much more difficult to detect during the day, when it usually remains motionless or crouches and runs from disturbances, than at night, when it tends to walk away from disturbances (D.J. Baker-Gabb 2006, pers. comm.; Harrington et al. 1988).
Female Plains-wanderers are unlikely to be mistaken for any other species. They can be readily distinguished from all similar species by their black and white collar, and the rufous patch on the upper breast. Juvenile and adult male Plains-wanderers could potentially be confused with the Little Button-quail (Turnix velox) or the Red-chested Button-quail (T. pyrrhothorax) both of which are similar in appearance to, and often share the same habitat with, the Plains-wanderer. However, adults of both sexes and juveniles can be readily distinguished in flight by the distinctive pattern on the upper surface of the wing, which consists of creamy-buff coloured band that extends across the black-brown feathers of the outer and rear wing, and another creamy-buff band along the trailing edge of the wing, and by the method of flight, which is described as ponderous, and which includes a fluttering (rather than diving) approach when landing (Marchant & Higgins 1993).
The recommended method for surveying populations of the Plains-wanderer is to perform nocturnal transect surveys in suitable native grassland habitat (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Harrington et al. 1988; Magrath et al. 2004) (photographic examples of optimal and sub-optimal habitat are provided in NPWS [2002a]). Suitable survey sites should be identified during the day and, if necessary, the transect routes marked on a global positioning system (GPS) unit. It is recommended that surveys be conducted from a slow-moving (less than 5 km/h) vehicle and employ the use of a hand-held search-light and the vehicle headlights to locate any birds present. Plain-wanderers become disturbed if a vehicle comes within 20 m, and usually respond to approach by walking a short distance, or by standing up on 'tip-toes' and craning their necks, which allows them to be detected (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Harrington et al. 1988; Magrath et al. 2004).
The recommended survey effort when performing nocturnal search-light surveys from a vehicle, in an area of 50 ha or less, is 25 person hours, spread over a period of five nights (Magrath et al. 2004).
The major factor in the decline of the Plains-wanderer has been the loss of habitat due to the cultivation and conversion of sparse native grasslands into croplands and dense introduced pasture (Baker-Gabb 1998; Bennett 1983). The loss of habitat has been widespread and extensive. Based upon a map published in Baker-Gabb (2002b), the Plains-wanderer has been recorded in a total of 73 one-degree grid-squares throughout eastern Australia. However, in 40 of the 73 grid-squares in which the Plains-wanderer has been recorded the native grassland has been rendered largely unsuitable by cultivation. This has caused the distribution of the species to contract markedly; the Plains-wanderer is now locally-extinct or near extinct in coastal and sub-coastal areas in all four states in which it is known to occur, and is mainly confined to small inland areas that are subject to grazing (Baker-Gabb 1998, 2002b; Bennett 1983; Blakers et al. 1984; Llewellyn 1975).
The replacement of native grasslands with introduced pasture or crops is ongoing in the Riverina region of NSW (Baker-Gabb 1998, 2002b). For example, in the four years after controls were introduced to limit the clearing of native vegetation (1998 to 2001), 20 500 ha of native grassland were converted to irrigated cereals alone. This area included 587 ha of primary habitat (which is likely to have contained about 100 birds) and 1473 ha of secondary habitat (Baker-Gabb 2002b). In Victoria, the cultivation of remnant native grasslands continued largely unabated (Webster 2000). For example, 81% of the 1080 ha of Plains-wanderer habitat that was located by Maher and Baker-Gabb (1993) in the Birchip district had been destroyed when the area was revisited seven years later (Webster 2000). Continued widespread clearance of native grasslands will continue the decline of the Plains-wanderer (Baker-Gabb 2002b).
The replacement of native grasslands for introduced pasture or crops can impact on the Plains-wanderer in a variety of ways. The widespread replacement of native grasslands in south-eastern Australia has caused the habitat of the Plains-wanderer to become fragmented, and this has subsequently caused populations of the Plains-wanderer to become isolated from one another (Baker-Gabb 2002b). The application of fertilisers, or the sowing of introduced species of pasture plants, can cause the density of grasslands to increase, and can also encourage the growth of environmental weeds, which can render habitats unsuitable for inhabitation by the Plains-wanderer, and lead to the temporary or permanent displacement of Plains-wanderer populations (Baker-Gabb 1998, 2002b). The management practices employed on cultivated land can also impact on un-altered habitat nearby. For example, fertilisers can drift from croplands into nearby grasslands, increasing the growth and density of grassland plants and thus decreasing the suitability of the grasslands for the Plains-wanderer. Also the cultivation and irrigation of croplands may increase soil salinity and the volume of ground-water, which is likely to have a negative impact on native grasslands (Baker-Gabb 2002b).
Other threats to the Plains-wanderer include overgrazing, predators, pesticides, tree-planting programs, and natural regeneration of native woodlands (Baker-Gabb 2002b).
The overgrazing of native grasslands by domestic livestock and rabbits (Oryctolagus culiculus), particularly during drought conditions, can result in the temporary displacement of the species from areas of preferred habitat on a local or regional scale, and an increase in the rate of mortality (Baker-Gabb 2002b; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; D'Ombrain 1926; Harrington et al. 1988; NPWS 2002b). Conversely, an absence or lack of grazing, when followed by widespread rainfall and prolific grass growth, can also be deleterious to the species (Baker-Gabb 2002b; NPWS 2002b) because it allows the density of grasses to increase which, consequently, can render native grasslands less suitable for inhabitation by the Plains-wanderer. However, when compared with the effects of drought and overgrazing, prolific rainfall that results in dense grass growth is a rare event in the Riverina region (although has occurred recently, to the major detriment of the species; Parker & Baker-Gabb 2013) and is of little significance in arid regions (D.J. Baker-Gabb 2006, pers. comm.). The threat from overgrazing is likely to have decreased since the early 20th century because of a reduction in stocking rates and the improved management of grasslands by landholders (Maher 1997; NPWS 2002b).
The Fox (Vulpes vulpes), the Cat (Felis catus) and native birds of prey such as the Spotted Harrier (Circus assimilis) and Black Falcon (Falco subnigerare) potential predators of the Plains-wanderer (Baker-Gabb 2002b; Llewellyn 1975; NPWS 2002b). Predation by foxes and feral cats had been considered a major threat to the species (D'Ombrain 1926; Llewellyn 1975), but a study in the Riverina region of NSW found no evidence for this (Harrington et al. 1988). Even so, it is possible that predation could pose a threat to the Plains-wanderer around cultivated land, where greater numbers of mice might help to sustain larger populations of the potential predators listed above (Baker-Gabb 1998, 2002b; NPWS 2002b).
Pesticides such as fenitrothion are periodically sprayed over a large proportion of Plains-wanderer habitat (Baker-Gabb 1993; Story & Cox 2001; Symmons 1985). Their effects on the Plains-wanderer are largely unknown. The concentration of fenitrothion that is used for spraying is capable of killing birds that come in contact with the chemical (Pearce 1971). Other pesticides such as fipronil are used in lower concentrations than fenitrothion, and are less likely to kill birds, although by killing many invertebrates they may remove an important resource for the Plains-wanderer and, consequently, still have a negative impact upon the species. Funding was obtained in the early 2000s to investigate the impacts of fenitrothion and fipronil upon non-target species in Australian grasslands (Baker-Gabb 2002b), but the progress and results of this research are unknown. The potential impact of pesticides has been mitigated by the decision of the Australian Plague Locust Commission to only use the fungus 'Green Guard', which selectively kills locusts alone, when spraying within 1 km of mapped primary Plains-wanderer habitat (Baker-Gabb 2002b).
The Plains-wanderer inhabits treeless native grasslands, and generally is not found within 200 m of woodlands. The planting of trees in formerly treeless native grasslands has occasionally occurred on the northern plains of Victoria and in other locations; and the natural regeneration of Acacia pendula woodlands can occur in the Riverina region of New South Wales at sites where little or no grazing occurs. Both of these processes can render native grasslands less suitable, or unsuitable, for inhabitation by the Plains-wanderer (Baker-Gabb 2002b).
Drought and prolonged dry spells can exacerbate the impacts of overgrazing (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Harrington et al. 1988), and prevent the Plains-wanderer from breeding (Harrington et al. 1988; Maher 1997). Drought or prolonged dry spells occur on average about once every six years in south-eastern Australia (Baker-Gabb 2002b).
The sex ratio is biased in the Plains-wanderer, with adult males outnumbering adult females by approximately two to one (Harrington et al. 1988). This limits the effective population size and, hence, the rate at which populations are able to recover (NPWS 2002b).
The long-term survival of the Plains-wanderer mainly depends on maintaining the extent and quality of the species' grassland habitats (Baker-Gabb 1998, 2002b; NPWS 2002b). The main priority for the conservation effort should be to limit the replacement of native grasslands for introduced pasture or crops. Although Plains-wanderer populations can recover from declines associated with local or more widespread overgrazing (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990), they rarely re-colonise grasslands that have recovered after being cleared and then replaced with agricultural plants (NPWS 2002b).
The following recovery actions have been implemented:
- The distribution, status and biology of the species has been reviewed (Bennett 1983; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990).
- The behaviour and ecology of the species was studied over three years in the Riverina region, and habitat and management requirements identified (Baker-Gabb 1987b, 1988; Baker-Gabb et al. 1990; Harrington et al. 1988).
- Detailed surveys of Plains-wanderer populations and their habitats have been conducted in Queensland (Baker-Gabb 2002a), NSW (Maher 1997), Victoria (Beardsell 1990; Maher & Baker-Gabb 1993; Webster 1996a) and South Australia (Webster 1996b).
- The habitat in the Riverina region of NSW has been mapped (Maher 1997; Roberts & Roberts 2001).
- Seven areas of critical habitat, termed 'Core Areas', have been identified in NSW (NPWS 2002b).
- Two draft recovery plans (Baker-Gabb 2002b; NPWS 2002b), an action statement (Baker-Gabb 1995) and two conservation statements (Baker-Gabb 1993, 1998) have been produced to guide the management of the species. Guidelines have also been developed for the management of some native grasslands occupied by the Plains-wanderer (Diez & Foreman 1996).
- Non-selective and potentially harmful pesticides are no longer used for locust control near primary Plains-wanderer habitat (Baker-Gabb 2002b).
- More than 274 000 ha of grassland has been acquired for conservation purposes since the early 1990s, including Diamantina Lakes National Park and the adjacent Astrebla Downs National Park in Queensland (which, combined, cover an area of approximately 250 000 ha), Oolambeyan National Park in NSW (which contains approximately 3200 ha of primary habitat and 3300 ha of secondary habitat of Plains-wanderers, and is considered capable of supporting a population of about 200 birds), Terrick Terrick National Park and Yassom Flora and Fauna Reserve in Victoria, and Boolcoomatta Station in South Australia (which covers an area of approximately 63 000 ha, and which has recently been added to the national reserve system) (Baker-Gabb 1995, 2002b; Baker-Gabb 2006, pers. comm.).
- A Population Viability Analysis has been conducted on the NSW population of the Plains-wanderer (Baker-Gabb 2002b).
The following recovery actions have been recommended in the draft national recovery plan (Baker-Gabb 2002b):
- Improve knowledge on the distribution and abundance of the species by undertaking surveys, population monitoring and habitat mapping in all four states in which the Plains-wanderer is known to occur.
- Determine areas of critical habitat in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia (critical sites, termed 'Core Areas', have already been established in NSW) and implement actions to ensure the conservation of the species in these areas.
- Maintain and enhance the quality of habitat by providing information to land-owners, providing input on clearing applications for important sites, monitoring sites with important habitat, and identifying and managing areas of critical habitat.
- Establish new reserves and private refuge areas through the acquisition of land or properties of high conservation value and liaise with, and provide incentives to, landowners to encourage the implementation of favourable management protocols.
- Undertake surveys to establish benchmarks for population size and breeding success, and implement monitoring at selected sites to track population trends. In conjunction with monitoring, tests should be undertaken to determine and monitor the impact of locust-spraying operations on Plains-wanderer populations.
- Undertake a Population Viability Analysis for the species throughout its entire range.
- Increase community awareness by engaging volunteers in the recovery effort, and by providing annual reports on the status of the recovery effort to participants, the general public and media.
- Ensure the continued operation of the recovery team and management of the recovery effort.
The conservation of the Plains-wanderer is the responsibility of the Commonwealth and State Governments; however, various other bodies also are involved in the recovery effort (Baker-Gabb 2002b; Garnett et al. 2011).
The Merriang District Landcare Group (Vic) received $4,500 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2005-06, part of which was for monitoring and recording the Plains Wanderer.
There have been a number of detailed studies on the Plains-wanderer. These studies have been conducted by Crome and Rushton (1975), Bennett (1983), Baker-Gabb (1987b, 1988, 2002a), Harrington and colleagues (Harrington et al. 1988), Baker-Gabb and colleagues (Baker-Gabb et al. 1990), and Webster (1996a, 1996b, 2000).
There is well-established and ongoing monitoring of populations in some areas, such as the NSW Riverina and the Patho Plains in Victoria (Parker & Baker-Gabb 2013; Radford et al. 2013).
Key management documents that have been produced for this species include a draft national recovery plan in preparation (Baker-Gabb 2002b), a management report (Baker-Gabb 1990b) and draft recovery plan (NPWS 2002b) for the species in NSW, an action statement to guide the conservation of the species in Victoria (Baker-Gabb 1995), and two conservation statements (Baker-Gabb 1993, 1998) to guide the management of the Plains-wanderer and its native grassland habitat.
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:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes||Pedionomus torquatus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006qk) [Internet].|
|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].|
|Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Intensification of farming practices such as increased grazing pressure, cropping expansion, vegetation clearance and/or pasture improvement||Pedionomus torquatus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006qk) [Internet].|
|Agriculture and Aquaculture:Mixed farms:Habitat modification and destruction due to cropping||Pedionomus torquatus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006qk) [Internet].|
|Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:inappropriate conservation measures|
|Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation||Oryctolagus cuniculus (Rabbit, European Rabbit)||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||Vulpes vulpes (Red Fox, Fox)|
|Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, competition and/or habitat degradation||Mus musculus (House Mouse)|
|Pollution:Airborne Agricultural pollutants:Pesticide drift|
|Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals|
Baker-Gabb, D.J. (1987a). Erroneous record of Plains Wanderers. Western Australian Bird Notes. 41:8.
Baker-Gabb, D.J. (1987b). The Conservation and Management of the Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus. World Wildlife Fund Report No. 49. World Wildlife Fund.
Baker-Gabb, D.J. (1988). The diet and foraging behaviour of the Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus. Emu. 88:115--118.
Baker-Gabb, D.J. (1990a). An annotated list of records of Plains-wanderers Pedionomus torquatus, 1980-1989. Australian Bird Watcher. 13:249-252.
Baker-Gabb, D.J. (1990b). The biology and management of the Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus in NSW. NSW NPWS Species Management Report No. 3. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney.
Baker-Gabb, D.J. (1993b). Managing grasslands to maintain biodiversity and conserve the Plains-wanderer. RAOU Conservation Statement No. 8. Wingspan. 10.
Baker-Gabb, D.J. (1995). Plains-wanderer, Pedionomus torquatus. Flora and Fauna Guarantee Action Statement. 66. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Melbourne.
Baker-Gabb, D.J. (1998). Native grasslands and the Plains-wanderer. Birds Australia Conservation Statement No. 1. Wingspan. 8(1).
Baker-Gabb, D.J. (2002). Recovery Plan for the Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus 2002-2006: Conservation of lowland native grassland dependant fauna. Environment Australia, Canberra.
Baker-Gabb, D.J. (2002b). Surveys for Plains-wanderers Pedionomus torquatus on Astrebla Downs National Park, western Queensland. Unpublished report to Environment Australia.
Baker-Gabb, D.J. (2006). Personal communication, June 2006.
Baker-Gabb, D.J. (2011). Plains-wanderer survey on the Patho Plains, Victoria, in 2011. Unpublished report to the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria.
Baker-Gabb, D.J., J. Benshemesh & P.N. Maher (1990). A revision of the distribution, status and management of the Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus. Emu. 90:161--168.
Barrett, G., A. Silcocks, S. Barry, R. Cunningham & R. Poulter (2003). The New Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Birds Australia.
Beardsell, C. (1990). Sites of Faunal Significance in the Western Region of Melbourne. Unpublished report to Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Melbourne.
Bennett, S. (1983). A review of the distribution, status and biology of the Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus Gould. Emu. 83:1--11.
Blakers, M., S.J.J.F. Davies & P.N. Reilly (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Melbourne University Press.
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.
Crome, F.H.H. & D.K. Rushton (1975). Development of plumage in the Plains-wanderer. Emu. 75:181--184.
D'Ombrain, E.A. (1926). The vanishing Plain-wanderer. Emu. 26:59-63.
Diez, S. & P. Foreman (1996). Draft: Practical Guidelines for the management of native grasslands on the Riverine Plain of south-eastern Australia. Department of Natural Resources, Bendigo.
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.
Harrington, G.N., P.N. Maher & D.J. Baker-Gabb (1988). The biology of the Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus on the Riverine Plain of New South Wales during and after drought. Corella. 12:7--13.
Howe, F.E. (1928). Notes on some Victorian birds. Emu. 27:252--265.
International Species Information System (ISIS) (2006d). Locations of captive species of birds. [Online]. www.isis.org. [Accessed: 30-May-2006].
Keartland, G.A. (1901). Notes on the Plain-Wanderer. Victorian Naturalist. 17:167--168.
Llewellyn, L.C. (1975). Recent observations of the Plains-wanderer with a review of its past and present status. Emu. 75:137--142.
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.
Maher, P.N. (1997). A Survey of Plains-wanderers Pedionomus torquatus and native grasslands on the Riverine Plain, New South Wales. Unpublished Report to Birds Australia, Melbourne.
Maher, P.N. & D.J. Baker-Gabb (1993). Surveys and conservation of the Plains-wanderer in northern Victoria. Arthur Rylah Institute of Environmental Research Technical Report. 132.
Marchant, S. & P.J. Higgins, eds. (1993). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 2 - Raptors to Lapwings. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.
New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) (2001). Summary of Results of Plains-Wanderer API Mapping Project 1999-2001. Unpublished report to New South Wales Plains-wanderer Recovery Team.
New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS) (2002a). Plains-wanderer Habitat Management Guide. A Photographic Guide for Visually Assessing the Grassland Structure of Plains-wanderer Habitat. New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service Western Directorate Threatened Species Unit, Dubbo, New South Wales.
New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS) (2002b). Plains-wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus) Draft Recovery Plan. New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney.
North, A.J. (1913-1914). Nests and Eggs of Birds Found Breeding in Australia and Tasmania. In: Special Catalogue 1. 4. Sydney: Australian Museum.
Parker, D. & D. Baker-Gabb (2013). Prolonged decline of the Plains-wanderer in south-eastern Australia; Case study 2: The Riverina of NSW from 2001 to 2013.
Pearce, P.A. (1971). Side effects of forest spraying in New Brunswick. In: Trefethen, J.B., ed. Transactions 36th North American Wildlife Conference. Page(s) 162-170. Wildlife Management Institute, Washington D.C.
Radford, J., D. Baker-Gabb & M. Antos (2013). Prolonged decline of the Plains-wanderer in south-eastern Australia; Case study 1: north-central Victoria from 2010 to 2013.
Ridley, E. (1985). First breeding of the Plains-wanderer. Bird Keeping in Australia. 28:49-53.
Ridley, E. (1986). Plains-wanderer Project Report 1985. Bird Keeping in Australia. 29:115--118.
Roberts, I. & J. Roberts (2001). Plains-wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus) Habitat Mapping Including Woody Vegetation and Other Landscape Features, Riverina Plains, New South Wales. Unpublished report to New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Sibley, C.G. & B.L. Monroe (1990). Distribution and Taxonomy of the Birds of the World. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.
Souter, T.G. (1938). Notes on the Plain Wanderer. Emu. 38:327-328.
Story, P. & M. Cox (2001). Review of the effects of organophosphorus and carbamate insecticides on vertebrates - are their management implications for locust control in Australia?. Wildlife Research. 28:179--193.
Sutton, J. (1927). Some additions to the South Australian Museum collection. South Australian Ornithologist. 9:150-151.
Symmons, P. (1985). Locusts, the plague of '84. Australian Natural History. 21:327--330.
Webster, R. (1996a). Survey and conservation of the Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus on the Western Plains of Victoria. Unpublished report to RAOU, Melbourne.
Webster, R. (1996b). Survey and conservation of the Plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus in south-east South Australia. Unpublished Report to RAOU, Melbourne.
Webster, R. (2000). Assessment of Plains-wanderer sites in the Birchip District. Unpublished Report to Birchip Landcare Group.
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). Pedionomus torquatus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Sat, 19 Apr 2014 23:01:53 +1000.