Hidden in the mallee

Photo credit; Graeme Chapman

Well here we are at the end of another year. We would like to thank all the landholders, schools and community groups that have been involved in the Murray Mallee Local Action Planning Associations activities throughout the year, especially those who have committed to the Habitat Restoration for Threatened Bird Species Revegetation Project. From the species you are helping protect, we thank you for investing your time, energy and resources. You all play an important role in the conservation of nature and threatened species.

Revegetation is more than just planting trees. Revegetation helps increase cover of important habitats and plays an important role in reconnecting remaining patches of vegetation while creating wildlife corridors for wildlife movement and protection. This is especially important for one particular species, the Western Whipbird (Eastern subspecies – Psophodes nigrogularis leucogaster).

There’s a good reason why you may not have seen the Western Whipbird. Notably this species is not only difficult to observe but is also listed as Endangered under the National Parks and Wildlife Act (SA) and Vulnerable under the EPBC Act. Its distinctive call is often noted over sightings.

The Western Whipbird is a secretive species that inhabits dense mallee scrub on sand flats, dunes and limestone that consist of an overstorey of mallee eucalypts such as Eucalyptus incrassata, E. socialis, E. dumosa and E. oleosa. This habitat is generally characterised by a species rich heath understorey of shrubs including Melaleuca lanceolata, Melaleuca uncinata, Babingtonia behrii, Callitris verrucosa, Leptospermum coriaceum and Trioda irritans.

It is a sedentary, ground forager pursuing invertebrates such as grubs, spiders, ants and beetles as well as lizards.

Broad scale vegetation clearance is the primary cause for the decline of the Western Whipbird. This is further exacerbated by the small and fragmented populations being highly vulnerable to bushfires. Habitat fragmentation has reduced the ability for populations to find refuge in unburnt areas when faced with fire and recolonise burnt areas after fire. In January 2014 bushfires destroyed most of Billiatt Wilderness Area, which is the largest known area of habitat for this bird in the region.

Given the sedentary nature of the Western Whipbird and its inability to navigate long distances, wildlife corridors are important for the long term survival and recovery of the species. This is where you fit in. By committing to revegetation programs and continuing to undertake revegetation activities on your property through MMLAP’s incentive program, we are helping to buffer conservation estate, re-establish valuable habitat and improve connectivity between remnant stands of native vegetation to support the habitat needs of this species.

The Western Whip bird is known to associate with the Red-lored Whistler and occurs in areas inhabited by Malleefowl and the Mallee Emu-wren. Which are other species listed under the EPBC Act that the MMLAP’s Habitat Restoration for Threatened Bird Species is targeting through revegetation. A threatened bird recovery group is actively monitoring these birds and working on restoration actions. If you would like to be involved or would like to know more please contact us on 8531 2066.

Wishing you all a great Christmas and New Year.

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