Monday, 22 May 2023
When the Black Summer bushfires ravaged a large proportion of Kangaroo Island, grave fears were held for many of its endemic birds and other wildlife. Now, three years on from that devastation, the bush has begun the long, slow process of regenerating, and some of the island’s special birds are showing just how resilient they are.
One bird, the Kangaroo Island Glossy Black-Cockatoo, was subject to intensive conservation work before the fire struck. Large areas have been planted out with thousands of drooping sheoaks — a major food source for the cockies — and many specially designed nesting boxes have been erected for the cockies to breed in, in areas where natural hollows are not readily available. As a result, the island’s population of Glossy Black-Cockatoos is on the rise, despite the setbacks caused by the bushfires. Indeed, the Glossies’ numbers have risen from 158 birds in 1995 to more than 400 in the most recent count. As the birds lay just one egg in a season, this increase is phenomenal.
After the smoke had cleared, despite the widespread devastation across Kangaroo Island, numbers of Glossies were able to persist in tiny unburnt patches of habitat in the island’s western parts, while others congregated on the east of the island, where there were more extensive unburnt areas, and where breeding has continued unabated.
The good news is that, even after the fires, conservation work on the island is still succeeding, as these birds have had a bumper season, with 23 nestlings recorded so far, with up to 40 expected to have hatched by the end of the breeding season.
Overall, there are 16 subspecies of birds which occur only on Kangaroo Island, nine of which are included on Australia’s list of threatened fauna. Birdlife Australia’s Kangaroo Island Bushfire Recovery Project is working with communities in conjunction with the Kangaroo Island Landscape Board and other organisations to help the island’s birds recover, especially its endemic subspecies.
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