Bustards and foxes.

To: "" <>
Subject: Bustards and foxes.
From: Ian May <>
Date: Tue, 07 Aug 2001 20:06:51 +0930
G'Day All

Regarding the subject of predators threatening Bustards, I hope the
following might be of some interest.

Extensive outback flooding occurred throughout northern South Australia
during 1971, 1974 and 1976 providing conditions ideal for Bustards.
Successful breeding occurred in many areas which appeared to result in a
noticeable increase of the local Bustard population but towards the end
of the record wet, European Rabbit populations exploded followed in turn
by irruptions of foxes and dingoes taking advantage of easily available
food across the region.

By the late 1970's good numbers of Bustards were present in many areas
previously considered to be at the edge of their usual range.  On most
days at any suitable habitat across the Lake Frome plains and the
southern Strzelecki desert, some Bustards could be observed where
previously only one or two sightings a year would be expected.  This
local increase in the Bustard population was probably due to birds
moving out of their more usual range further north with the onset of
drought.   Of concern was that this occurrence was happening
simultaneously with a fox irruption in the same area.   I feared that
foxes might prey heavily on the Bustards.

I was lucky to be working in the region for much of this time and after
several years of searching for some evidence, although it seemed
surprising, it was pleasing to find not one single instance of Bustards
falling prey to foxes.  A recognized bushman of that era, Mr Jack Mobs
of Old Moolawatana Station (near Lake Callabonna) told me once that he
was of the opinion that foxes did not normally prey on Bustards.  When I
first met Jack at Lake Callabonna in 1971 he was a professional Kangaroo
shooter who for seventeen years previously had worked the southern
Strzelecki desert including Murnpeowie, Moolawatana, Quinyambie and
Frome Downs.

The introduction of the Calici virus and the subsequent crash of rabbit
populations has  probably already changed previous fox/prey
relationships.  The reduction of rabbit numbers across the arid zone is
resulting in the rapid regeneration of a better vegetation cover for
ground nesting birds and hopefully fewer foxes from the reduction of
available food but such a change needs close monitoring to identify
unexpected adverse consequences.


Ian May

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