Thanks Ross and Chris for your comments.
A few more considerations:
In the southern states blackbirds are considered to be in the top 10 or so of
the 60-odd bird species causing damage to horticultural crops. It is ranked as
a very serious pest of fruit, particularly grapes. Though not a problem yet in
Queensland, blackbirds are already in districts with vineyards e.g. Stanthorpe
and the Granite Belt, Highfields (north of Toowoomba), and even out at St
George! Coincidence? I don't think so.
Urban blackbirds relatively benign? I'm sure many gardeners will disagree e.g.
eat and damage their fruit and veges, scratch up mulched areas scattering it
over pathways, bare-root their roses, etc.
What about subsequent dispersal of urban birds into horticultural areas? The
more in suburbia the more pressure on them to disperse and establish new
territories. Unfortunately, we don't tend to think beyond our own backyards
where blackbirds are concerned. And fruit-growing areas don't need another pest
to contend with.
How far north will blackbirds establish? We don't know, but why wouldn't they
continue to disperse up the populous east coast, particularly along the Great
Dividing Range to areas such as the Sunshine Coast hinterland and beyond. They
are a resilient and adaptable species in Australia.
As they spread, they will encounter different habitats and new species. Who's
to say they couldn't become a serious competitor to certain species in some
landscapes in future?
Do we really want blackbirds to become a permanent part of the urban
soundscape? I remember waking up at ANU in Canberra at a conference a few years
ago and that's all I could hear. I remember thinking this could be Toowoomba in
a few years. I'm all for keeping the Queensland dawn chorus as unadulterated as
possible, for as long as possible.
Whilst southerners are stuck with them, Queenslanders have an opportunity to
keep the state relatively blackbird-free. Inaction in the past should not be
our excuse for the future.
Because of their territorial habits and prominence in the breeding season, I do
believe a bounty system is strategic and viable at this stage. A campaign
targeting schools in the infested regions before the summer holidays would be a
very good starting point, where the kids have time on their hands and could
earn money simply by pinpointing calling males or active nests and sending
video/photographic evidence upon which the authorities can adjudicate and act
e.g. trapping. The bounty would be subject to the evidence being confirmed and
this is where local birders could help the authorities with timely follow up of
A greater reward could be offered for the first confirmed nest of the season in
each town/suburb/region to generate media attention to the potential problem.
Doing this would flush out a lot more records than are currently being
generated on a voluntary basis. Then we would know where to concentrate
trapping effort and conduct ongoing monitoring. And each breeding season we
would be able to gauge the success of the bounty system by checking
presence/absence in previously reported territories.
Positive generates positive. If we can show it can be done in Queensland, then
it could well be the incentive to do it elsewhere. If we can't do it for
Queensland blackbirds, then what hope for mynas and starlings, even in fringe
Blackbirds will continue to infiltrate into Queensland but there's no good
reason to give them a saloon passage and tempt fate. Let's get the runs on the
board, demonstrate we can make a difference, and see what happens from there.
Blackbird Monitoring Project
Toowoomba Bird Observers