Rocking up for Rockwarblers

Monday, 20 February 2023

  • Estimated reading time 2 minutes

Rocking up for Rockwarblers

Searching for an enigmatic species

Among the dripping sandstone caves of the Greater Blue Mountains Key Biodiversity area, a clear chis-sick can sometimes be heard — it’s the call of a small cinnamon-brown bird, the elusive but charismatic Rockwarbler, NSW’s only endemic bird.

About 40 percent of its range was burnt in the Black Summer bushfires of 2019–20, and BirdLife Australia aims to find out how the secretive Rockwarbler is recovering after the bushfires.

Last spring, BirdLife Australia and teams of hardworking citizen scientists searched for Rockwarblers at both burnt and unburnt sites across their range. In some places, such as Kanagra-Boyd National Park, where the bushfires were extremely hot, ghostly, black trees still silhouette the mountaintops as far as the eye can see. Yet, to our immense relief, Rockwarblers were found surviving in these burnt areas.

One part of BirdLife Australia’s Rockwarbler project involves searching for Rockwarblers in the remote wilderness of the Greater Blue Mountains, at sites where they have never been recorded previously. Over 50 percent of these searches were successful — boding well for the conservation post-fire status of the species.

However, this isn’t the complete picture.

The overall detection rate of Rckwarblers at sites where they were known to occur before the fires was low — only 10 percent of sites and 7 percent of surveys recorded Rockwarblers. Most of these sites are on the periphery of the wilderness area, and half the sites surveyed are in unburnt habitat.

With so few detections, there is no clear pattern. And that’s where citizen scientists come in. Repeating surveys at these sites is vital to better understand the factors that affect Rockwarblers’ detectability and distribution.

We need your help for autumn Rockwarbler surveys

We are asking birders and citizen scientists across eastern New South Wales to conduct surveys at ‘Rockwarbler’ target sites during autumn, and enter them into Birdata. 

To book a site visit, click here

You can download survey instructions here.

To explore Rockwarbler sites near you, visit the Birdata website.

And you can also watch a webinar on how to use the Birdata app for this project here.