Tuesday, 22 August 2023
A new release of stamps from Australia Post features three common species of Australian birds, highlighting the results of BirdLife Australia’s Aussie Bird Count.
The birds depicted perennially feature in the top three species recorded each year in the Aussie Bird Count: Rainbow Lorikeet, Australian Magpie and Noisy Miner. All three are controversial species in their own way.
The Rainbow Lorikeet has featured in the top position since the Aussie Bird Count began in 2014, due to both its widespread distribution and its large population in urban areas. Although the species is native to eastern Australia, its range has expanded greatly in recent decades, and can now be seen from the islands in Torres Strait south to southern Victoria and west to the Eyre Peninsula in SA. Their populations in the southern capitals have undergone a seismic shift, growing from a handful of parrots to become our most prominent urban bird.
Increasing populations around Perth and Hobart reflect birds having been introduced, and in Western Australia in particular, their aggressive occupation of nesting hollows regularly excludes native hollow-nesting Western Australian species — ranging from other parrots to treecreepers and pardalotes — from their nesting sites. They also cause about $3 million worth of damage to commercial fruit crops each year in south-western WA. It is considered a pest in the West, and BirdLife Australia’s Operation Rainbow Roost is monitoring their population around Perth.
The familiar Australian Magpie is what we call a ‘generalist’ species — one that doesn’t have many specific requirements and so can flourish in many different habitats. Magpies have benefitted from changes to the environment in the wake of development for residential areas or clearing of bushland for agriculture. All they need is some open space to feed in and some trees to perch, sleep and nest in — all readily satisfied in urban areas and country towns, as well as in farmland.
For most of the year, magpies are relished for their beautiful carolling song, but each spring, they become controversial as some swoop at people during breeding season. Swooping usually occurs when there are young in the nest, or just after the young have fledged, when they’re at their most vulnerable to predators. Experts agree that it’s generally a defence strategy to deter potential predators which may harm their young.
They have a certain reputation, but, in fact, most magpies don’t swoop people, and of the tiny minority which do, most don’t make physical contact when they swoop.
Rounding out the three common species is the Noisy Miner (not to be confused with introduced, brown-and-black, Common or Indian Mynas). These aggressively territorial birds have become superabundant in areas where the tree cover has been cleared or thinned out (fragmented). This certainly includes many urban areas, as well as country towns and farmland, where most Aussie Bird Count surveys are conducted.
Long strips of trees (often along roadsides or planted as windbreaks) which are surrounded by open areas provide perfect habitat for these pugnacious birds, as these areas are easily defended against most other birds. Miners are often seen mobbing all manner of birdlife, some as large and innocuous as passing herons and cormorants, right down to tiny birds such as pardalotes and spinebills. Indeed, Noisy Miners are such aggressive birds that ‘aggressive exclusion of birds from potential woodland and forest habitat by over-abundant Noisy Miners’ has been officially recognised as a key threatening process for a number of declining species of birds.
The stamps featuring the Rainbow Lorikeet, Australian Magpie and Noisy Miner were released on 15 August; you can order yours by clicking here. And you’re invited to look for these birds and more during the Aussie Bird Count from 16–22 October.
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