Decades of meteorological data are telling the story of Australia’s birds.
Weather radar can be used to better manage bird populations
and potentially save them from extinction, a researcher at Charles Darwin
University in the Northern Territory has found.
Rebecca Rogers has been using weather radar to track the
movement patterns of Magpie geese (Anseranas semipalmata) to demonstrate
how the data generated can improve the management of Australia’s waterbirds.
The radars routinely pick up birds in flight, but while the
information is a nuisance for meteorologists, it is a boon to ecologists.
Australia’s birds are bright and noisy compared with birds elsewhere, so perhaps it is no surprise they account for over 18 million of the more than 30 million observations in the Atlas of Living Australia; including records from before European settlement.
Now, funded by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), a team led by spatial ecologist Dr Jeremy VanDerWal of the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change at James Cook University (JCU) is developing a website, known as “Edgar”, to clean up existing records and augment them with reliable observations from enthusiastic and knowledgeable bird watchers.
He isn’t a pilot, but few people would know more about ways of navigating while flying than Prof Mandyam Srinivasan (Srini) of the Queensland Brain Institute. And he’s steadily finding out more.
Initially known for his work in bees, since receiving the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science in 2006, Srini has shown that birds and insects use a similar system of visual guidance to prevent themselves from crashing into trees when flying through dense forest.
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Seabirds on one of Australia’s remotest islands have plastic in their stomachs.
A recent survey found more than 95 per cent of the migratory flesh-footed shearwaters nesting on Lord Howe Island, between Australia and the northern tip of New Zealand, had swallowed plastic garbage.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, plastic has been shown to bind poisonous pollutants. As a result, some shearwaters were found with concentrations of mercury more than 7,000 times the level considered toxic.
Nectar-eating Australian birds make clever choices about which flowers to raid. And so do the flower mites which hitch a ride in their nasal passages, according to zoologists Jolene Scoble and Assoc. Prof. Michael Clarke at La Trobe University in Melbourne.