Niels Dreyer highlights the land clearing that is still happening in
Queensland. The case was (still is, most likely) the case in the Northern
Territory. The governments of South Australia, Victoria and New South
Wales (Western Australia ?) have all recognised that this can not continue
if we are to maintain biodiversity.
I am, however, reluctant to stick my neck out and suggest that we will lose
50 to 100 bird species in the next 50 years. I think what is more likely
is the continued, and perhaps dramatic, decline in many species. There
will be a lot more species in the same boat as the Regent Honeyeater. I
suspect, however, that few species will actually become extinct - at least
that is my hope.
Will it happen in 50 years? It could well. As recently as the 1940's and
'50's (50 years ago) Regent Honeyeaters still occurred in "thousands" and
bred "everywhere" in the forests near Cowra. This decade they have been
reported in this same forest, by the same observer, on only a couple of
occasions with six birds being the maximum recorded. In central NSW is it
probably the loss of the Yellow Box woodlands on the more fertile soils
that has resulted in this dramatic decline. This tree species is still
common but only as remnant shade trees in a see of pasture, the woodlands
are no more. I would suggest that the Regent Honeyeaters are now forced to
exist in largely sub-optimal habitat - Mugga Ironbark woodlands on rocky
and infertile soils and mistletoe laden Riveroak along rivers.
As Neils suggests, the loss of Blue Gum in central Queensland could well
have the same consequences for other, still common, honeyeater species.
What can we do? I would be interested in hearing from other list members.
No doubt Birds Australia would also be interested. RAOU Conservation
Statement No. 10 "Conserving woodland birds in the wheat and sheep belts of
Southern Australia" very successfully highlights the plight of woodland
birds. What are we, as people with a vested interest in conserving birds,
going to do about it?