Artificial intelligence finds Eastern Bristlebirds

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

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First record in Queensland since Black Summer bushfires

It’s literally music to the ears for bird enthusiasts and conservationists — the Endangered Eastern Bristlebird was recorded singing in the hills of South East Queensland recently, after not having been seen or heard there for three years. The results are testimony to long-term collaboration and persistence, good land management and the use of artificial intelligence.

The finding was made by BirdLife Australia, after deploying acoustic monitors as part of surveys supported by Healthy Land & Water and the Australian Government.

“Eastern Bristlebirds haven’t been seen in Queensland since the 2019 drought and bushfires,” said Callan Alexander, Preventing Extinctions Project Officer at BirdLife Australia.

“We’ve been constantly searching for the birds since then, doing both on-ground surveys and acoustic monitoring, but we hadn’t had any luck [until now].”

A recent funding boost from both Australian and Queensland Governments has allowed increased monitoring for Eastern Bristlebirds and led to the recording of 350 calls on five acoustic recorders in July and August last year.

Using artificial intelligence software, sounds recorded by the monitors were analysed for the presence of Eastern Bristlebird songs, thanks to a partnership between the Queensland University of Technology and Queensland Department of Environment and Science.

“I almost couldn’t believe my ears when I came across the positive detections using the QUT AI software,” Callan said.

With more acoustic data to be analysed and further surveys to take place, hopes are high that the number of birds present, extent of territories and evidence of breeding will be determined.

“There are so many organisations working together on this project, and I think it was a huge relief for all involved to hear them calling again,” Callan said.

This collaboration builds on years of work to improve our understanding of the Eastern Bristlebird, monitor and enhance bird numbers and maintain and improve the ecological condition of grassy forests surrounding rainforests on which the northern population of the Eastern Bristlebird depends.

Concurrently, habitat for the Eastern Bristlebird on public and private land is being maintained, restored and expanded.

This program is supported by Healthy Land & Water, through funding from the Australian Government.