Bunyip bird booms for Barmah-Millewa wetlands

A recent survey shows the Barmah-Millewa wetlands, on the NSW/Victorian border, are home to one quarter of the population of the rare Australasian bittern, also known as boomers or bunyip birds.

Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus), also known as bunyip bird on its nest in Barmah-Millewa Wetlands

As part of World Wetlands Day awareness Dr Chris Belcher lead author of a report detailing the 2016/17 bird surveys said, up to twenty five percent of the estimated population was thought to be making use of these Ramsar-listed wetlands.

“Although this endangered waterbird is very difficult to spot it is readily detected by the fog-horn like booming call of males during the breeding season,” Dr Belcher said.

“The total number of males is estimated at around 200 individuals and there may be up to 3 females for each male,” he said.

“Our most recent survey following the 2016 floods detected 50 males highlighting the importance of Barmah-Millewa wetlands for these birds,” Dr Belcher said.

Ecologist Ian Davidson from the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group said the results of the survey also highlighted the importance of managing flows into the Barmah-Millewa forests between natural flood events to maintain key wetland condition.

“When the wetlands are in good shape, the Australasian bitterns move in and make the most of the abundant food and nesting habitat,” Mr Davidson said.

“The birds are converging on the Barmah-Millewa where conditions are at their best for them to breed and raise their young,” he said.

NPWS project officer Ali Borrell said the frequency and extent of natural flood events in the river system had changed significantly as a result of river regulation which affects the plants and animals that rely on natural inundation to complete their life cycles.

“By providing water to these wetlands in the form of managed flows that mimic natural cycles, state and Commonwealth governments are helping these plant and animal communities to survive until the next natural event occurs,” Ms Borrell said.

Ian Davidson chair of the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group said the results of the survey highlighted the importance of managing flows into the Barmah-Millewa forests between natural flood events to maintain key wetland condition.

The Australasian Bittern Surveys were funded by The Living Murray Program, a joint initiative of the NSW, Victorian, South Australian, ACT and Commonwealth governments. Murray Local Land Services also assisted with funding from the Australian Government National Landcare Program.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated each year on 2 February and marks the anniversary of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, World Wetlands Day is celebrated by undertaking actions to raise public awareness of wetland values and benefits and promote the conservation and wise use of wetlands.