In the Age Online this morning.
Drought threat to red-tailed
May 30, 2005
Another drought in southern Australia may further
threathen the endangered subspecies of red-tailed black cockatoos - the mascot
for the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth
Recorded numbers of the brilliantly coloured birds, selected
as the Games mascot for their striking looks and gregarious nature, marginally
improved after a count by Birds Australia identified a record 929 birds in
south-east South Australia and south-west Victoria, north of
While the annual bird count by volunteers this year was a
record, this was partly because counting methods had improved. The group also
was able to gain information from many sightings as the birds congregated in
flocks of up to 400 or 500 in the friendly spirit that endeared itself to
Commonwealth Games organisers.
But Birds Australia believes the signs for future growth of
the population are worrying. "People assume that because it was a good year for
sightings, it means the population has increased," said Birds Australia officer
Tania Rajic. "But we are conducting flock counts looking at the percentage of
males in the population. They seem to have increased quite considerably, which
will have a large impact on future population.
The problem for the birds is that they are specialised seed
eaters that eat the fruit of only three trees; two kinds of stringybarks and the
buloke tree, which is itself endangered.
Ms Rajic said concern with the looming drought was that the
remaining bulokes would decline, causing them to produce less or none of the
seeds vital for the birds early in the year.