Diamond firetail - vulnerable species listing

NSW Scientific Committee - final determination

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act, has made a Final Determination to list the Diamond FiretailStagonopleura guttata (Shaw 1796), as a VULNERABLE SPECIES on Schedule 2 of the Act. Listing of Vulnerable Species is provided for by Part 2 of the Act.

The Scientific Committee found that:

1. The Diamond Firetail is distributed through central and eastern NSW, extending north into southern and central Queensland and south through Victoria to the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. In NSW, the species occurs predominantly west of the Great Dividing Range, although populations are known from drier coastal areas such as the Cumberland Plain of western Sydney and the Hunter, Clarence, Richmond and Snowy River valleys (Blakers et al. 1984, Schodde & Mason 1999).

2. The Diamond Firetail is a brightly coloured finch that occupies eucalypt woodlands, forests and mallee where there is a grassy understorey. Firetails build bottle-shaped nests in trees and bushes, and forage on the ground, largely for grass seeds and other plant material, but also for insects (Blakers et al. 1984, Read 1994).

3. The Diamond Firetail has disappeared from parts of its former range and has declined in numbers in many areas. Declines have been recorded on the Cumberland Plain, western Sydney (Hoskin 1991; Keast 1995) with a local extinction near Scheyville (Egan et al. 1997). On the New England Tableland, declines in populations are apparent (Barrett et al. 1994) and the species has become extinct within Imbota Nature Reserve and surrounds (H. Ford, pers. comm.). Reid (1999) identified the species as a 'decliner' in a review of bird status in the NSW sheep-wheatbelt; and Fisher (1997) predicted that Diamond Firetails would significantly decline from the Bathurst District if current trends in land management persisted.

4. The Diamond Firetail is threatened by clearance and fragmentation of habitat. Isolation and reductions in remnant area inhibit dispersal and increase their vulnerability to local extinction via stochastic events. Small, isolated populations also lose their long term genetic viability (Barrett et al. 1994). Further, Diamond Firetail populations appear unable to persist in areas which lack remnants of native vegetation larger than 200ha (N. Schrader, pers. comm.).

5. Habitat degradation, particularly overgrazing of the grass understorey, threatens the granivorous Diamond Firetail. In addition, an increased abundance of predators such as Pied Currawongs and Australian Ravens may increase nest predation in fragmented woodland remnants (Major et al. 1996).

6. In view of the above points, the Scientific Committee is of the opinion that the Diamond Firetail,Stagonopleura guttata, is likely to become endangered unless the circumstances and factors threatening its survival or evolutionary development cease to operate, and is therefore eligible for listing as a vulnerable species.

Proposed Gazettal date: 26/10/01

Exhibition period: 26/10/01 - 30/11/01


Barrett, G.W., Ford, H.A. and Recher, H.F. (1994). Conservation of woodland birds in a fragmented rural landscape. Pacific Conservation Biology 1, 245-256.

Blakers, M., Davies, S.J.J.F. and Reilly, P.N. (1984). 'The Atlas of Australian Birds'. Melbourne University Press: Melbourne.

Egan, K., Farrell, J. and Pepper-Edward, D. (1997). Historical and seasonal changes in the community of forest birds at Longneck Lagoon Nature Reserve, Scheyville, New South Wales. Corella 21, 1-16.

Fisher, A.M. (1997). The distribution and abundance of avifauna in the Bathurst landscape: implications for conservation and land management. Ph.D. Thesis, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst.

Hoskin, E. (1991). 'Birds of Sydney 1770-1989'. (Surrey Beatty and Sons: Sydney.)

Keast, A. (1995). Habitat loss and species loss: the birds of Sydney 50 years ago and now. Australian Zoologist 30, 3-25.

Major, R., Gowing, G. and Kendal, C. (1996). Nest predation in Australian urban environments and the role of the Pied Currawong, Strepera graculina. Australian Journal of Ecology 21, 399-409.

Read, J.L. (1994). The diet of three species of firetail finches in temperate South Australia. Emu 94, 1-8.

Reid, J. (1999). 'Threatened and Declining Birds in the New South Wales Sheep-wheatbelt: Diagnosis, Characteristics and Management'. Report to NSW NPWS, Sydney.

Schodde, R. and Mason, I.J. (1999) 'The Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines'. CSIRO:Melbourne.

About the NSW Scientific Committee

Page last updated: 27 February 2011