Countdown for the weak

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Margie Maccoll

A new research project being conducted by Bushland Conservation Management in partnership with the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation (NBRF) aims to identify Glossy Black Cockatoo (GBC) nesting sites in Noosa Shire using specially designed acoustic software.

The project will use visual and bioacoustic surveillance to record and analyze data on bird movements as they prepare for the breeding season, which takes place from March to September.

Bushland Conservation Management’s Kim Morris said there are three subspecies of glossy black cockatoos – one on Kangaroo Island, a southern species and one in southeast Queensland – Calyptorhynchus latham latham. The subspecies is considered endangered and a third of the total bird population has been identified in the Noosa Shire, particularly at Sunrise Beach, she said.

Kim said that although bioacoustic technology has been around for a while, this research, to be carried out by a team of four including her husband Joel, will use special recognition software developed by Dr. Daniella Teixeira of the University of Sunshine Coast and “can recognize the glossy call”.

“We’ve been tracking the birds since 2019 through word of mouth, online data and our own observations in bushland sanctuaries,” she said.

“The noise detection software was successfully deployed on Kangaroo Island. The possibility of using the software from Dr. Using Teixeira here in Noosa will ensure the accuracy of this data.”

Kim said the Glossies have been known to visit Sunrise Beach, Weyba Downs, Cooroibah, Cooloola, the hinterland in the Kenilworth area and go west as far as Toowoomba and Charleville.

“They follow the seed source. They appear to breed on the coast as juveniles are sighted with parents every year,” she said.

“The breeding season is one of the biggest challenges for the birds. They are a large bird that has difficulty finding dens to breed in. Deforestation and fires make it difficult.”

Kim said during the breeding season, the female never leaves the nest while incubating the eggs and is completely dependent on the male for food and water. Research has shown that during this time males travel up to 12 km to gather food and only 1.5 km to carry water for the female.

“It makes it especially difficult for them to be so picky about their forage trees,” she said. “A lot of people think they’re just birds, they’ll just sort themselves out. They are very specialized and loyal to their habitat. They pluck the fodder trees. Maybe they have a higher nutritional value (research is ongoing). You will visit them year after year. They will take their young to the site and teach them where the forage trees are.”

Kim said the birds’ breeding season coincides with the months when the seeds on their forage trees are mature and most plentiful, particularly March through June. She said the 2019 bushfires had a “massive impact” on the glossy forage trees and they are continuing to feel the effects.

“38 per cent of GBC habitat has been affected by bushfires. There were some hot burns and not much recovery. In other areas trees are coming back but not the seeds. It may be another five years before they come back,” she said. Forage trees and tree hollows were destroyed during the bushfires in both Cooroibah and Peregian.

The Glossy Black Conservancy, an independent conservation and research association, conducts a GBC bird census each year.

“Last year they found that there were 164 GBC (subspecies) in total, 86 percent of the GBC were seen in Noosa, south-east Queensland and the Gold Coast. The census revealed that a third of all GBC were seen in the Noosa Shire and 88 per cent of that at one location, the Sunrise site.

“I feel like the region is such an important piece of land given the impact of the bushfires that are still being felt. It will definitely have a big impact to lose such a plot early in the breeding season.”

Kim said a group of scientists have submitted paperwork to have the subspecies listed in the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Act 1999, which would provide increased protection for its habitat, but it’s still in the process.

NBRF Director Jady Smith said this innovative research is critical to the preservation of GBC and followed a GBC forum hosted by NBRF last November to discuss current knowledge and management gaps.

“There are currently no known recorded nest sites in the region,” Kim said. “Thanks to citizen science observations from passionate community members, we know that glossy writers are proliferating.

“This project will provide real-world data that has not been achieved before in this region.”

Monitoring began in January and will continue until June.

The NBRF aims to ensure that the data generated from the research inform future conservation management decisions for local GBC populations. Locals can support the project by registering GBC sightings at different times by emailing [email protected]

For more information, see the Glossy Black-Cockatoo Bioacoustics Monitoring project page.

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