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Newsletter / Blog


2012-08-14
Exciting news - Lord Howe Island to become Rat free.


BirdLife Australia (BirdLife Partner) is delighted by the recent announcement made by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke and NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker to commit $9 million to eradicate rodents from Lord Howe Island.

Lord Howe Island, a World Heritage Area and a globally significant Important Bird Area, is home to 182 bird species, three of which are endemic – making it one of Australia’s most important seabird islands.

However since settlement, nine of Lord Howe Island’s endemic birds have become extinct due to rats and other human-related pressures, and today at least 13 different birds on Lord Howe Island are still threatened by rodents, including the Nationally Vulnerable White-bellied Storm-Petrel and Lord Howe Woodhen. Rats have also been implicated in the decline and extinction of 13 invertebrate and two plant species.

The Lord Howe Group is the only breeding site in Australasia for the White-bellied Storm-Petrel, and one of only two Australasian breeding sites where the Kermadec Petrel breeds; due to predation by rodents, neither species still breeds on the main island, and they now only nest on Balls Pyramid, a small, rat-free island offshore from Lord Howe Island.

Last year BirdLife Australia committed to a campaign to secure funding for the eradication of rodents from Lord Howe Island. Our State of Australia’s Birds 2010 highlighted the eradication of rodents from Lord Howe Island as a key priority, and our Head of Conservation, Samantha Vine, wrote to all relevant parliamentarians, calling for the eradication plan to be funded under the ‘Caring for our Country’ program. We asked our supporters to do the same.

Thanks to the effort of everyone who did their bit, we will soon see the largest eradication operation to be attempted on an inhabited island. It will have enduring conservation benefits for biodiversity globally: at least 13 bird species, 49 floral species, 12 ecological communities, and plenty more will benefit. The reduction in predation and resource competition will also increase the resilience of all species on Lord Howe Island to the impacts of climate change.

Exciting news indeed.

Lord Howe Woodhen

The Lord Howe Woodhen - Gallirallus sylvestris - is a flightless bird of the rail family – Rallidae. It is endemic to Lord Howe Island off the Australian coast.

Description

A large, olive-brown, flightless rail with bright chestnut wings. Olive-brown body, duller on underside. Indistinct, paler supercilium. Bright chestnut wings with narrow, dark brown bars on primaries and primary coverts. Long, decurved, pink bill, more brown towards tip. Red iris. Light pink-brown legs. Juvenile similar, but iris initially dark.

Call

A loud, piercing, repeated whistle, often as duet.

Food

Feeds on earthworms, crustaceans, eggs and fruit.

Breeding

Woodhens mate for life and are territorial. A mated pair will defend an area of approximately 3 hectares, with offspring being expelled from this area once grown. Egg laying on Mount Gower occurs August to January, with the clutch size between one to four eggs. The incubation period is 20 to 23 days and young birds are fully developed at about 150 days.

Conservation Status – Endangered

This species is listed as Endangered as it has an extremely small population which is restricted to a tiny area of available habitat on one island. Conservation efforts have resulted in the stabilisation of numbers which are estimated to be around 220-230 birds.

Birdwatching

Ask Aves Birding Tours to create a tour for you to see these endangered Rails.

 


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