Modern radio-tracking helps finch conservation work in Australia

14 Oct
A black-throated finch with a radio tag. Photo Juliana Rechetelo

A black-throated finch with a radio tag. Photo Luiz Mestre

The map on the right indicates the birds range taken over a 21 day period

The map on the right indicates the birds range taken over a 21 day period.Home ranges can be estimated in different ways; the method Juliana Rechetelo used is called kernel, so the blue area is where you have 95% of points, which she assumes, is 95% of chances of ‘finding the bird’ … the yellow is the core area, 50% of data is there.

Juliana Rechetelo, who was originally from Brazil and today does research work on the Black-throated finch in Australia kindly shared the following story with the Rare Finch Conservation Group :

The black-throated finch is a grass-seed-eater endemic to eastern Australia and the range of the southern subspecies, Poephila cincta cincta, has contracted 80% since the 1970s. It is listed as endangered under Federal and States legislation. Much of its habitat has been damaged and destruction is continuing. We need to know about its biology and ecology to assist with further conservation and management actions. My PhD project focused on understanding the ecological needs of this species.

My study area is close to Townsville, north-east Queensland, Australia, where an important remaining population of the southern subspecies exists. I investigated movement patterns, home range, daily movements, habitat use, habitat selection, and foraging and nesting sites. I have monitored birds and sites for almost 3 years, visiting areas known to support BTF to observe/monitor flocks and locate foraging, drinking and nesting locations and undertake vegetation surveys. I captured birds with mist nets, colour banded them and fitted radio-tracking devices to some.

Radio-tracking black throated finch was a demanding job but it has provided unique and valuable information about this group of birds. Whilst radio tracking BTFs I was able to follow an individual or whole flock and I could learn not only details about their movements and home range, but also about behaviour and daily routine. Banding and radio-tracking studies showed that BTFs moved further than previously thought and field observations showed they use different parts of the landscape for different activities (feeding, nesting, roosting or resting). Conservation management of areas should consider their movement patterns and the different parts of the landscape they are using for different activities. Conservation of BTF will require the collaboration of landholders to provide healthy habitat. This outcome depends on research and practical contributions from landholders. Research aligned with community effort is the perfect alliance to help this species.

Juliana Rechetelo

Juliana Rechetelo

Juliana Rechetelo is a PhD candidate at James Cook University and CSIRO, Townsville. Her current research focuses on the ecology of granivorous birds with particular attention to the Black-throated finch. She is researching aspects of land use affects on the distribution of granivorous birds, the way in which the birds use landscapes, movement patterns in relation to resource distribution and aspects of their feeding ecology. Juliana is the recipient of the Stuart Leslie Bird Research Award from BirdLife Australia.

The RFCG would sincerely like to thank Juliana for sharing her special learning’s with us . Originally coming from Brazil we would also like to congratulate her for tackling such a brave project in a foreign language and country.

The Rare Finch Conservation Group is registered in South Africa as a non-profit organisation and is totally dependent on donors and sponsors to carry out its conservation work on finches in the wild. For more info visit http://www.rarefinch.org or write to the secretary at editor@avitalk.co.za

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SEE – CONSERVE – ENJOY

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