Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane? No, its a Plains-wanderer!
26 March 2010
The search is on for the elusive and endangered Plains-wanderer in the Mitiamo and Patho regions as the Northern Plains Conservation Management Network conducts a survey of the native bird.
Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) Grasslands Management Coordinator, Deanna Marshall, said the survey will not only gather basic data about the Plains-wanderer population in the area but also tag the birds to follow their migratory patterns.
“The Plains-wanderer is critically endangered in Victoria and we need to know more about its biology and preferred habitat so we can help protect it for future generations,” Ms Marshall said.
“They have been reported to fly up to 40 kilometres away from a known nesting site, so banding the birds is essential so we can assess their home range and find out more about population distribution in Victoria,” she said.
Plains-wanderer numbers and distribution have declined greatly since European settlement mainly due to loss or degradation of habitat.
The Plains-wanderer is about 15cm tall and superficially resembles Button-quail. It is a ground dwelling bird. The female is larger and more brightly coloured than the male. Both sexes have long straw yellow legs and bills, and their plumage is mainly fawn with fine black markings. The female is distinguished by her prominent white spotted black collar above a rich reddish-brown breast patch. There is speculation that the Plains-wanderer is a very ancient member of Australia’s avifauna, with its origins tracing back over 60 million years to when Australia was part of the Gondwana super-continent and connected to South America.
So far the Plains-wanderer survey has been completed on several private properties in the Mitiamo and Patho region with eleven more properties to be surveyed shortly. DSE’s survey is coordinated with a similar Parks Victoria project that conducted Plains-wanderer surveys on public land. This gives a more complete picture of the areas’ populations of Plains-wanderer.
“Local landholders have been very supportive of the survey and have willingly shared their extensive knowledge and past sightings of the Plains-wanderers on their properties” Ms Marshall said.
This initiative is part of DSE’s Northern Plains Conservation Management Network project. It is supported by the North Central Catchment Management Authority and the Commonwealth Government’s ‘Caring for our Country’ program.