Blackbirds in Stanthorpe, QLD / bounty systems

To: Ross Macfarlane <>
Subject: Blackbirds in Stanthorpe, QLD / bounty systems
From: Michael Atzeni <>
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2010 07:08:28 +0800 (WST)
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.

Mick Atzeni
Blackbird Monitoring Project
Toowoomba Bird Observers

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