I would like to share with you some of the findings in the new Atlas (1998
- 2000) which I have found earlier in the year. Only one or two days a year
do I get the chance to have a good look at the Atlas data.
Below is a list of some of the more common species showing a significant
decrease in reporting (of greater than 40%) compared to the first Atlas of
1977 - 1981.
In the first group are the raptors and owls. After being artificially high
in numbers for decades they have now come down to more normal levels.
Whatever normal is? They may have gone below normal levels with increased
competition and reduced prey. In contrast coastal raptors are showing an
increase in reporting: Osprey, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea-eagle.
The second group contains a diverse group of species, but one thing they
all have in common is that they are ground dwellers and not associated with
water. The main conclusion that I can think of for the significant decrease
in these species is predation by feral cats, as well as foxes which add to
Other ground dwelling species showing a decrease in reporting include
Skylark (quite dramatic), Chirruping Wedgebill (but not Chiming Wedgebill),
Rufous Songlark, Southern Whiteface, White-fronted Chat, Gibberbird, Inland
To me the most dramatic outcome of this Atlas is the finding on the ground
dwelling (non-water) bird species. 20 years ago feral cats and foxes
appeared to have little impact on ground dwelling bird species. Now 20
years later they appear to be having a significant impact. As well as on
other small native animals.
It is now a challenge for the Australian government and people to find
effective solutions to the feral cat and fox problem.
Below is a list in order of the top 20 most commonly reported species in
the two Atlases.
First Atlas 1977 - 1981 New Atlas 1998 - 2000
Australian Magpie Austalian Magpie
Willie Wagtail Willie Wagtail
Magpie Lark Magpie Lark
Welcome Swallow Galah
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike Welcome Swallow
Galah Laughing Kookaburra
White-faced Heron Grey Fantail
Laughing Kookaburra Superb Fairy-wren
Nankeen Kestrel Grey Shrike-thrush
Common Starling Red Wattlebird
Masked Lapwing Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Grey Shrike-thrush Australian Raven
Grey fantail Crested Pigeon
Australian Raven Pacific Black Duck
Richards Pipit Striated pardalote
House Sparrow Common Starling
Pacific Black Duck Masked lapwing
Superb Fairy-wren White-faced Heron
Crested pigeon Silvereye
Yellow-rumped Thornbill Crimson Rosella
Richard's Pipit was the 15th most commoly reported species in the first
Atlas, in the new Atlas it is now 77th.
Nankeen Kestrel was the 9th most commoly reported species in the first
Atlas, in the new Atlas it is now 55th.
The significant changes in these two species are symptomonious of what has
happened in the last 20 years to the two groups of birds, the birds of prey
and the ground dwellers.
The Emu and Richard's Pipit were the first two species we picked up as
showing a significant trend, barely a year into the Atlas.
There are some groups of species that are doing very well and showing an
increase in reporting, such as; Thornbills/Wrens, Honeyeaters,
Rosellas/Lorikeets, Doves/Pigeons, Corvids/Butcherbird.
Western Australian species are doing well partly due to this state having
its wettest three year period on record.
Ibis/Herons and some water birds are showing a decrease as well as some
There are too many species to give mention of here.
Birds Australia Atlas Project
415 Riversdale Road
Hawthorn East, Victoria, Australia 3123
(Ph) 03 9882 2622
(Fax) 03 9882 2677
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