Western Star Finch distribution

To: <>, <>
Subject: Western Star Finch distribution
From: "Michael Todd" <>
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2000 10:56:45 +1000
Hello Frank and others,

Thanks for the Star Finch info. I'm particularly interested in people's
observations or lack thereof in the Pilbara and Gascoyne areas, as it is a
part of Australia I haven't seen so am relying on the observations of

Going by the records that I have, they are distributed from the de Grey
River in the north to the Gascoyne River in the south. The spread of recent
records match fairly well the historical records. There are a scattering of
further afield records, probably not residents in these places though. They
probably occur inland along the river systems as far as the suitable habitat
occurs inland. As an approximate value, this seems to be a distance of about
300 km. Within this area they are probably virtually continuous although
contact between populations on different rivers may not occur all the time.

Star Finches are roamers despite previous reports. After banding over a
thousand Stars, I still obtained low recapture and resight rates in
comparison to the Crimson Finch. In Lakefield NP, Cape York, I had 5
movements of over 10 km. I had a number of movements of the order of a few
kilometres within a day. Because they roam around, it is quite possible to
attend a spot where they might be often seen and not find them for a few
days. They like to flock and the usual pattern is for large flocks to either
be present or no Star Finches to be present at all. The one factor that
usually confines them is their preferred habitat of long grass and swampy
habitat, a limited habitat in many places.

I think to get long term separation you would have to have a sizeable gap
between populations. This exists in places such as between the Pilbara
populations and the Fitzroy River populations.

As for the Lake Argyle area. I suspect that they would have been under where
Lake Argyle is now, last century. However, that country was completely
devastated by some of the worst over-grazing that must have occurred in
Australia, and the Stars were probably locally wiped out long before Lake
Argyle was built. Photographs that I have seen of some of that country after
all stock was removed were awe-inspiring. In a bad way of course! Nowadays
there are such big numbers of Stars on the lower Ord River that some birds
will be coming up the river on a regular basis all the time. I found some on
an island in the middle of Lake Argyle that was formed by the flooding
earlier this year. Whether or not they are able to recolonise around Lake
Argyle will depend on how much suitable habitat now exists.

As Ian May said there are good numbers of Stars along the Ord River,
including Wyndham. They are probably easiest to see north of Kununurra,
anywhere along the Ivanhoe Rd, Research Station Rd, Weaber Plains Road
during the dry season they are almost impossible to miss. At times mixed
flocks of thousands of finches can be seen, with the most abundant birds
being Star Finches. Parry Creek Nature Reserve, particularly Marlgu, is an
interesting place as it is one of the easiest places to see Star Finches in
the area in a natural habitat, more like where they would have been before
human disturbance. I think Frank O'Connor has a bit of info on his website
re this place.

I hope I haven't bored too many people!


Mick Todd

Michael Todd
Tropical Savannas CRC
PO Box 780, Atherton, Qld, 4883
Phone- (07) 40918837

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