Re Feral Chestnut-breasted Mannikins in Melbourne

To: "Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Re Feral Chestnut-breasted Mannikins in Melbourne
From: "Sean Dooley" <>
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2005 23:10:02 +1100
In regards to Lawrie Conole's question on Chestnut-breasted Mannikins in the the Melbourne area, I've also have often wondered as to the cause of this influx in the late Sevnties/early Eighties.
I saw a single Chestnut-breasted Mannikin at Seaford Swamp in June 1980. Then some time in 1981 I came across three. At the beginning of 1983 Peter Lansley discovered a huge flock at Seaford which if memory serves me correctly was of thrity birds, but it may have been more. This flock hung around for a couple of months and then disappeared. The bird has never been seen at Seaford again.
Around the same time Mannikins were fairly regularly reported in not only areas throughout Melbourne's Eastern Suburbs but there were also reports from rural districts such as Yellingbo, Koo-Wee-Rup and even Tarra Valley which is around 200 km from Melbourne.
The accepted wisdom was that these were feral populations that bred up. But why did they then disappear? As far as I know there have been very few, if any records since the mid-Eighties. As the 82-83 period was one of severe drought in Eastern Australia could the influx of records at this time could have had more "natural" origins of birds displaced from the drying out of habitats further north?
Does anyone know how fast these birds breed?  Perhaps the Seaford flock were the direct descendants of those couple of birds I had seen a year or two earlier. Is this sort of population explosion likely for such a species?
Speaking of Seaford Swamp, last week (Thursday 17th) I joined Chris Tzaros of Birds Australia for the monthly Melbourne Water census. Thanks to recent record rainfalls water levels were still very high which ensured plenty of diversity with 66 species being recorded.
Unfortunately the high water levels meant less wader species though there were 170 Sharpies and 60 Black-winged Stilts. This will be the first time in at least eight years that the swamp hasn't virtually dried out by this time of year.
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