A research project investigating how fire affects the food source of one of northern Australia’s most iconic bird species could provide clues to its future conservation.
Once one of Australia’s most common wild finches, the Gouldian Finch is now listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999. Charles Darwin University PhD candidate Anna Weier will look more closely at how bushfires are affecting breeding rates.
‘The landscape is changing,’ Ms Weier said. ‘Previous research suggests that areas where fires once burned sporadically in patches, now burn with an extended front over large areas.
‘These altered fire patterns can have a big impact on seed-eating birds because they burn the grass and grass seeds that the birds depend upon over landscape scale areas.’
Over the next three years, in collaboration with Save The Gouldian Fund and The Department of Parks and Wildlife WA, Ms Weier will look at fires and the effect on sorghum grass seed availability for Gouldian Finches and how this affects their breeding success.
‘Sorghum is an annual grass and the main food source for breeding Gouldians,’ she said. ‘We hope to find out more about how fire affects seed quality and availability, and if this in turn affects breeding rates.’