Migratory birds and SE Asian fires

To: "SABirdNet List" <>
Subject: Migratory birds and SE Asian fires
From: Hugo Phillipps <>
Date: Thu, 27 Nov 1997 09:52:46 +1100 (EST)
At 13:41 26/11/1997 GMT-120, you wrote:
>Interesting.  Are the Ozzies monitoring their migratory birds to 
>assess the impact on them of these big fires? 

Most of the birds which migrate in large numbers to Australia through the
area affected by recent widespread forest fires in Sumatra, Borneo and New
Guinea are waders (shorebirds) which breed in northern Asia (and a few in
Alaska).  The fires occurred at a time when signicant proportions of the
populations of some of these species would have been moving southwards
within the East Asian / Australasian Flyway to spend the non-breeding season
in Australia and New Zealand.

It is possible that fire effects might show up in reduced numbers in this
year's summer count of the National Wader Count Program coordinated by the
Australasian Wader Studies Group.  However, it may not be easy to separate
these effects from the year-to-year fluctuations caused by differential
breeding success and mortality in the Arctic.  Certainly, a large drop in
absolute numbers (rather than in the juvenile/adult ratios) in those species
thought to cross fire-affected areas, compared with those assumed to take a
more easterly route, would be suggestive but, so far, I have no statistical
(nor anecdotal) evidence of any such drop.

There are a few other Palearctic species which visit Australia (especially
the northern littoral) in smaller numbers than the waders, and some New
Guinea species that cross Torres Strait to northern Queensland.  None of
these is adequately monitored to be able to pick up fire effects.

I feel that we should worry more about the resident forest birds (and other
fauna) of insular south-eastern Asia and New Guinea which have suffered from
widespread and continuing habitat loss.

Regards,  Hugo.

Hugo Phillipps,
Birds Australia Conservation & Liaison,
Australian Bird Research Centre,
415 Riversdale Road,
Hawthorn East, VIC 3123, Australia.
Tel: (03) 9882 2622. Fax: (03) 9882 2677.
o/s: +61 3 9882 2622. Fax: +61 3 9882 2677.
Email: <>
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