Wednesday, 15 March 2023
The plight of the Australasian Bittern was brought to light by BirdLife Australia’s Birdata program, which identified that the species was steadily being detected in fewer and fewer bird surveys conducted in reedbeds and similar habitats, suggesting that this cryptic wetland species’ population was in decline.
When presented with overwhelming data to support this, the Commonwealth Government agreed, and the Australasian Bittern was subsequently classified as Endangered under the EPBC Act. The next step in the process to conserve these birds has just come to fruition: a Recovery Plan for the Australasian Bittern, which provides a much-needed blueprint for the survival of the species.
In eastern Australia, Australasian Bitterns occur from south-eastern Queensland around to the South East district of South Australia, with its core centred in the Murray–Darling Basin — an area that has undergone tremendous ecological upheaval. They also inhabit wetlands in Tasmania. Farther west, bitterns occur at disjunct sites in Western Australia, in the South West and the South East districts. They experience similar threats to their survival across their range.
The main threats to Australasian Bitterns are the loss and degradation of the wetland habitats it inhabits. This has largely come about through changes to the dominant water regimes (such as drainage of wetlands and diversion of watercourses, infilling swamps and regulation of waterflows). Added to this are a plethora of other issues, including clearing of suitable habitat for urban and agricultural development, the effects of climate change, changes to water quality, predation by introduced predators such as foxes and cats, overgrazing by livestock and inappropriate fire regimes.
The new Recovery Plan aims to drive an increase in the populations of Australasian Bitterns across Australia by enhancing and protecting their wetland habitats through critical management actions, with cooperation between various stakeholders being a key component.
BirdLife Australia has been a trendsetter in driving Australasian Bittern conservation on both sides of the continent, implementing a number of innovative projects and initiatives to monitor and conserve the species, and our army of volunteers will doubtless continue to play an important role in the bittern’s survival.
You can read the new Recovery Plan by clicking here.
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