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Wings on King

February 28, 2015


WINGS ON KING : A project to find and tell the story of King Island’s birds



The Magic of King Island and its birds:


King Island is ancient and unique.  It is remote and beautiful, sometimes it’s wild and sometimes it’s gentle — even balmy. 


Located in the middle of the Western entrance to Bass Strait, half-way between Victoria and Tasmania, the Island acts as a biological stepping-stone between Tasmania and mainland Australia. For birds migrating North and South, the Island is a vital stopover to rest and refuel.


The Island is home to many species that like the:


There are 6 King Island subspecies — for example, the Green Rosella


Large numbers of international shorebirds and journey to the Island on holiday from their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere. Some, like the Double-banded Plover, come on holiday from New Zealand. While many seabirds — including the Short-tailed Shearwater — come here to breed. 


‘Life’, especially bird-life, on King Island is busy.



More about King Island and its birds click here 



What we want to know about King Island’s birds:


Even though King Island has such an important location and role for birds, we know very little about the conservation status of the land birds of King Island or about how the birds that migrate across Bass Strait use the Island.  Long-term, systematic monitoring of land-birds has never been done on King Island. Although there has been useful random monitoring of birds on the Island, its use for conservation management is limited.  


We need to know about the:


  • Residents: the population status of all the birds that call King Island home


  • King Island Subspecies: There are 6 recognized subspecies; 1 of which, the King Island Scrubtit, is listed as critically endangered,  and one of which, the King Island Brown Thornbill, may be extinct. A further 2 subspecies have been nominated for listing as threatened; the Green Rosella and the Black Currawong, but we need to know more about their populations before these nominations will be accepted. What about the other two – the Yellow Wattlebird and the Dusky Robin? What is their status?

  • Land bird Migrants: Many bird species migrate between the Australian mainland and Tasmania including Flame Robins, Silvereyes and Grey Fantails. How many stay and rest, stay and breed or pass through non-stop? Are their numbers reducing, remaining constant or increasing?


  • Vagrants:  Many ‘occasional’ birds arrive on the island, stay a while and then move on.  As climate change warms our planet, it is possible that birds seeking cooler places will start to venture south.  King Island is on the forefront of these potential distribution shifts.


Without answers to these questions, it is impossible to manage the natural biological resources of King Island comprehensively – including the bird life.

There are pressures to clear more land and introduce new industries to King Island

We need to know how each of these may impact on our birdlife

We need to find and tell the story of King Island’s birds.


Aims of Wings on King:

Wings on King aims to answer these questions by gathering data from identified monitoring sites across the island in differing land usage zones, landscape elements, vegetation communities and habitat qualities.  It aims to find and tell the story of the birds of King Island.


Four ‘focuses’ of the Project

There are four different, but related, ‘focuses’ of the Wings on King project.  We aim to:


  • Learn about the presence, absence and populations of the land birds of King Island;

  • Establish current population levels of the King Island Subspecies and monitor these in the future;

  • Learn more about the land birds that migrate to, or through, King Island and how they use the Island when they are here; and

  • Watch for evidence of southward drifts in distribution ranges of mainland land birds.


Coming soon: project description and design 

Coming soon: research methodology 


Wings on King needs Your Help


King Island is a working island providing around 6% of Tasmania’s GDP — but it has a small human population, only few of whom have the expertise or time to monitor birds.   Quite simply, we don’t have the human resources to gather the data that we need.  Nor do we have funds – or not yet anyway – to pay a Project Officer to gather data or even to manage the project. 


This project is being undertaken entirely by local volunteers and we need your help. 



Let Us Know  - come to King Island - become a Registered Participant


To enable us to manage the project and make sure the most important sites are being monitored as often as possible, we need to know when you are here and which sites you are visiting. 


To allow visitors to monitor sites on private land, we need to make sure you comply with BirdLife Australia’s insurance criteria.  So it is better for you and better for us if you become a Registered Participant. But you can also participate without registering if you prefer.



Opportunities if you register as a Wings on King participant


If you register as a Wings on King participant, you will have an opportunity to see and learn about King Island in a way that no ordinary tourist or visitor to the island can.


Access to Private Land: There are two categories of sites:

  • those on public land that anyone can survey whenever they like - the details of these can be found and downloaded from the BirdLife Australia’s website; and

  • tho