Australian Painted Snipe at Edithvale

Subject: Australian Painted Snipe at Edithvale
From: Dean Ingwersen <>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2008 11:10:57 +1100
Hi all,

As far as we're aware there has only been one previous record of (the now Australian) Painted Snipe at Edithvale - two birds seen in March 1993 by Rowe and Cowell. This was reported in the Unusual Sightings section of the Bird Observer in May of that year.

Interestingly around the same time that year there were 3 birds seen at what is now the Eastern Treatment Plant, and another one seen at the Western Treatment Plant. In light of that we are hoping some of the people lucky enough to see the Edithvale bird may be able to assist us by checking out some other wetlands around Melbourne for other individuals - places like Seaford, the treatment plants, even some of the wetlands around new housing estates could have the birds present. This species has been the subject of a long-running project through the Threatened Bird Network and we're keen to learn as much as we can while we know birds are present. So if anyone is interested in helping out please feel free to get in touch with me...we are hoping to run a simultaneous survey around town sometime in the next few weeks and are currently working out the highest priority wetlands to survey. Thanks to those who have already assisted with our first survey of the 'season' last weekend - this is the only bird we're aware of at the moment though there have been sightings near Carnarvon, WA (including suspected breeding) and Bowra, Qld earlier in the year.

Just to let everybody know too that while this bird is around Edithvale we are really keen to get as much information as possible, and are hoping to collect feathers moulted by the bird (commonly found after they've preened). As my first line suggests the species is now recognised as an endemic Australian bird, no longer a subspecies of the Greater Painted Snipe of Asia. However, as the genetics supporting this only came from one group of birds near Broome it has met with some scepticism internationally and a bigger sample size is sought. This is really hard when the birds are so few in number, and sightings are so scattered. We have already tried unsuccessfully to collect feathers from this bird, but will try again over the next few weeks if we see the bird shed any.

For those wanting to know more about the Edithvale bird, we have identified it as an immature male based on plumage features. The most distinguishable feature is the pale grey edging to the white 'harness', especially on the chest. On older males, this is considerably darker (black). A few observers have also pointed out the small size of the bird.

Finally, in answer to Russell Woodfords question the other day about how long the bird will hang around for - we don't know! However, the Rutherglen (Vic) birds in 2006 were present for just over a month, while a pair of birds at Lake Yerang in Hattah NP (Vic) this time last year were present for over a month too. The Cove Rd birds (Qld) lasted a little longer I think. In all cases they only left after the water had evaporated.

If anyone would like more info on the species or our project newsletters please feel free to get in touch with me. Incidentally we have recently sought funding to expand the project with the aim of doing some further analysis of the database and highlighting the species as a flagship for freshwater wetland conservation in the Murray-Darling Basin. Fingers crossed!!

Regards, and happy sniping

Dean Ingwersen
Threatened Bird Network Coordinator

Birds Australia
Suite 2-05, 60 Leicester St
Ph:  (03) 9347 0757
Fax: (03) 9347 9323
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