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Threatened Endemic Birds of
King Island

King Island Scrubtit (CR) 
Acanthornis magnus  greenianus

Description: Length 11-12 cm; weight 10 gm. Note short,

slender, slightly curved bill, brownish above, with white spot on

wing, white throat, yellowish underbelly and blackish narrow

subterminal band on tail.

 

The King Island Scrubtit is a subspecies of the Tasmanian

Scrubtit.  It lives in tall, old growth melaleuca forest with good

understory, foraging high up in the canopy.  Shy and quiet it is

hard to find and observe.  

Due to loss of habitat through fire and land clearing, it was

listed with the EPBC Act as Critically Endangered in 2002,

however, while a number of expeditions surveyed the remaining

birds and observed a continued decline in population, no

recovery work was commenced until 2019.  They are now a 

primary target species for recovery under the King Island Bird

Conservation Action Plan (2021)

KI Scrubtit x Adrian Boyle copy.jpg

About Extinction...

Extinction is forever

A threatened species is a species that is threatened with extinction. While eventual extinction is a natural process for all species within natural systems, it is naturally an extremely slow process taking many hundreds or thousands of years for a species to become extinct. Many species can evolve into new species over time carrying many of their genes with them, but the extinction of a species means the total loss of the entire gene pool that made up that species so it no longer exists.  It is the loss of these species, their gene pool and the important ecological roles that each plays, that now threatens the integrity of the natural environment and together with climate change, is threatening the ability for our own survival on earth. 

Today, because of world-wide over population of humans and our insatiable appetite for food production and development, changing the world to suit ourselves individually without understanding that each of those changes impacts on our fundamental life-support systems - the natural environment - the extinction rate of species has increased to around 1000% higher than the natural rate.  Because of that massive increase and the desperate need to maintain a functional environment, a set of pre-extinction criteria has been set up to help identify species and prioritise where recovery work is most needed.  

King Island Brown Thornbill (CR) 
Acanthiza apical Archibaldi

King Island Scrubtit x Wildlife Images

 King Island Scrubtit, searching for food in Melaleuca bark x Eve Woolmore

Categories of Threat:

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) developed a method to describe the conservation status of species that is now used worldwide.

- Extinct: Species no longer exists

- Extinct in the Wild: species only exist in captivity

- Critically Endangered (CR): species is in extreme danger    of extinction in the immediate future

- Endangered (E): species in danger of extinction while       the factors causing them to be endangered are still             operating

- Vulnerable (V): species at risk of becoming endangered

- Conservation Dependent (CD): species whose survival      is dependent on conservation activities

Length 10 cm; Weight unknown - about 7-8 g. Slightly darker

and with a much longer and larger bill than other brown

Thornbill species.  Previously considered a Brown Thornbill

subspecies, it is now thought to be a separate species but this

has yet to be established.  Shy and quiet, it forages high and is

associated with old growth eucalyptus and melaleuca forest

and King Island Scrub Complex (a unique King Island

vegetation community) with healthy undergrowth.


Listed in 2000 as Endangered, the KI Thornbill was recognised

as the most likely next bird extinction in Australia in 2018

(Geyle H. M. 2018). At that time only one bird had been seen

at any one time in one location on the island over several

decades. Two photographs taken in 2015 and another in 2016

by different photographers proved they were still extant (existed)

They are now a 

primary target species for recovery under the King Island Bird

Conservation Action Plan (2021)

KI Brown Thornbill x Adrian Boyle.jpg

King Island Black Currawong (CR) 
Strepera fuliginosa colei 

Length  47-49 cm. Large black bird with white wing tips and tail feather tips and strong heavy bill. Smaller than Tasmanian species. Otherwise looks very similar. Bright yellow eye in adults and black eye in immature birds. It has a loud raucous voice and is most commonly observed during the autumn months when they band together in loose flocks and roam further afield. It is a rarely seen, breeding resident that prefers dense scrub for breeding and protection, but utilises open paddocks and other vegetation for foraging.

Once prolific on King Island, it has been in noticeable decline since the 1960's.  Listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act in 2015, it has been assessed as Critically Endangered by the Action Plan for Australian Birds, 2020 (Garnett and Baker, 2021).

While not a specific subject of the King Island Conservation Action Plan, it will benefit from the work done in that project, particularly from that of the KI Brown Thornbill, as both species utilise King Island Scrub Complex extensively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KI brown thornbill, Pegarah SF, King Isl

The importance of preventing extinctions 

Plants and animals maintain the health of ecosystems. They work together and produce the air we breathe, clean water that nothing living can do without, food, medicines and much more.  The support and enhance out wellbeing.

 

When species become threatened with extinction, it's a sign that an ecosystem is out of balance and not working effectively.  Therefore, the presence of threatened species on King Island tells us that our environment is losing its integrity (wholeness and functionality), that we are losing the very thing that keeps us here, because we aren’t caring for it sufficiently – even though it is in our own interests to do so.  

There is also a moral argument. Do we as a species, (homo sapiens or humans), have a right to knowingly cause the extinction of other living species and the individuals that make up that species?

King Island Brown Thornbill x Wildlife Images

King Island Brown Thornbill x Barry Baker

Beach erosion, Quarantine Beach, King Island, 2022

Black Currawong - young x kmr Mch 17.jpg

King Island Black Currawong x Kate Ravich

currawongHobcroft2016.jpg
King Island Yellow Wattlebird (E) 
Anthochaera paradoxa kingi 

Length 37-45 cm.  Australia's largest Honeyeater the King Island Yellow Wattlebird is a KI subspecies and is regarded as being slightly smaller than the Tasmanian species.  The Yellow Wattlebird as its name suggests, has pendulous yellow-orange wattles and a bright yellow belly. Common prior to the 1960s, it has been in a slow decline.  While not listed under the EPBC Act as yet, it has been assessed as Endangered in the 2020 Action Plan for Australian Birds (Garnett and Baker, 2021). 

DSCN0904.JPG

King Island Yellow Wattlebird x Kate Ravich

King Island Black Currawong x Barry Baker

Yellow Wattlebird1L9A7922_edited-4.jpg
Green Rosella_KingIsland_Nov17_0U7A0423.JPG

King island Green Rosella x Andrew Silcocks 

King Island Yellow Watatlebird x Andrew Silcocks

Green Rosella (E) Platycercus caledonicus brownii

Length 32-38 cm.  A Blue-cheeked rosella endemic to Tasmania with the King Island subspecies brownii greener and slightly smaller than its Tasmanian cousin. The only rosella on King Island it is generally associated with forests although can be seen along roadways foraging for grass seeds.  Not listed in Tasmania or the EPBC, it has been identified as Endangered in the Action Plan for Australian Birds, 2020 (Garnett and Baker, 2021).  A declining population is being caused by a shortage of habitat and competition for breeding tree hollows, a situation probably exacerbated by the fairly recent establishment of galahs on the island.

Green Rosella 2 x Donna Romano copy.jpg

King Island Green Rosella x Donna Reeman

Key Threatening Processes on King Island (in order of degree)

  • Land clearance for agriculture and development removing native vegetation

  • Fire particularly wildfire

  • Global warming including sea level rise causing loss of habitat

  • Predation by feral cats

  • Predation by introduced rats and mice

  • Dieback caused by the root-fungus Phytophthora cinnamoni

  • Psittacine Circoviral (Beak and feather) Disease affecting parrot species often spread when artificially fed by humans

Conserving the Birds of King Island

History

Over the years a number of ornithologists have visited King Island and undertaken surveys, identifying the King Island Scrubtit as Critically Endangered, and suspecting that the King Island Brown Thornbill was probably extinct. But no systematic island-wide searches were taken. Conservation initiatives included the listing of the RAMSAR wetland at Sea Elephant.  A brief moratorium on land clearing slowed the loss of habitat down but this was lifted in 2017 and increased land clearing commenced, some illegally. The Tasmanian Forest Practices Authority now do keep a close eye on what is cleared.

In 2015 the Birds of King Island website was published, with the aim of increasing the awareness of the unique birds of King Island to both local Islanders and tourists alike.

In 2017 the Wings on King program began - see Wings on King section on this website.

In 2018 funds were raised by the King Island Natural Resource Management Group and BirdLife Australia to undertake a systematic search for both the KI Brown Thornbill and KI Scrubtit.  This initial search was undertaken by Dr Matthew Webb and colleagues from Australian National University in March, 2019.  They found several birds of both species in the known sites and importantly they also found new sites where the birds still exist.

Following these discoveries a workshop was held on King Island with stakeholders from all levels of government, local community, BirdLife Australia and several universities, to develop a Conservation Action Plan (CAP) for both species. 

 

The official statement from this first CAP workshop produced the following statement:

"The King Island Scrubtit and King Island Thornbill are nationally significant and they are a unique part of King Island’s biodiversity.

Populations of both birds are now less than 50 individuals each, and without intervention they are facing imminent extinction

Taking decisive action now is essential to saving these two species from extinction

Successful recovery will rely on strong partnerships between the King Island community, State and Federal Governments, NGOs and specialist scientists to address their key threats. 

We urgently need to: 

  • Complete the surveys of potential habitats to better understand both species' distribution and requirements

  • Update State and Federal assessment processes with improved habitat descriptions, vegetation mapping and on ground assessment methods

  • Increase the level of protection at Pegarah State Forest and focus management on strengthening this area as a stronghold for both species

  • Increase capacity to prevent and respond to fire in key habitat

  • Identify and protect critical areas on private land through a range of measures including incentives to maximise landholder participation"

Over the following year, facilitated by BirdLife Australia's Preventing 

Extinctions Program, a full Conservation Action Plan was developed and a Steering Committee appointed.

2021 The King Island Threatened Bird Conservation Action Plan (KITB CAP)
What is it?
See attached PDF documents: A brochure for a precise and quick introduction to the Plan and B the full detailed plan. Both can be downloaded.

The Threatened King Island Birds Conservation Action Plan (CAP) is a direct and coordinated response to the very high risk that, without urgent action, the King Island Brown Thornbill and King Island Scrubtit will become extinct within 20 years. In addition to the focal species and the forest systems on which they depend, CAP strategies and actions benefit other threatened KI birds and their habitats. Ongoing development and implementation of the CAP is coordinated by the King Island Birds CAP Steering Committee and facilitated by BirdLife Australia, with support from the Australian Bird Environment Foundation. See PDF for the full CAP.

The King Island Birds Conservation Action Plan (CAP) Steering Committee was formed in July, 2021, and is comprised of species experts and representatives from government entities, NGO and NRM groups, research institutions and the King Island community. The Steering Committee provides advice and makes recommendations on the conservation needs of the CAP targets and develops and implements the CAP within an adaptive management framework. See PDF Members of the CAP Steering Committee.

To Contact the KI B CAP Management:

Facilitator:  Dr Sarah Pearson E: sarah.pearson@birdlife.org.au

Steering Committee Chair: Kate Ravich, Kate.ravich@bigpond.com or mobile: 61 417 487 263

Conservation Actions and Projects - updated 30.1.23

2020-22: Defining and mapping habitat requirements to support the survival of King Island threatened birds

This project is funded by the Australian Government's National Landcare program and managed by the Cradle Coast Natural Resource Management Authority. It is being led by Dr Phil Bell and commenced in 2020. Its Aims are:

1) Identifying remaining populations of both the KI Scrubtit and KI Brown Thornbill.   Searches are being undertaken across the island to find and document all remaining populations of both species and simultaneously learn more about their habitat requirements.

2) One of the difficulties that King Island has had for sometime is a lack of accurate information about ecological communities on the island.  A part of the search project above, is to undertake vegetation mapping and update our knowledge of the current status of all the KI vegetation communities. This information is being supplied to Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Department of the Tasmanian State Government to update their own data. Having this knowledge is essential for effective conservation of all KI natural values. 

This project is now complete although surveys will continue into the future as funding allows.  The bird data obtained is held within BirdLife Australia's databank, Birdata.  As it concerns critically endangered species it is only available on request to Birdata. The on-ground vegetation mapping is held and available from TASVEG Live.  At this stage it is NOT included in TASVEG 4 which is the information freely available to the public, but it is hoped the Government will be able to update TASVEG 4 in the near future.  The final report from this project is in process and will supply invaluable information for future management.

2021 - ongoing: Community engagement and Stakeholder awareness

Community Meeting - April 2021:

An open-house community meeting was held to bring the community up-to-date on what we are finding and what needs to be done.  In particular, we included the recent identification of the KI Black Currawong as also being critically endangered, in this meeting. Over 40 people attended and the results were reported in the local King Island paper, the Courier.

Since then several informative articles have been published in the King Island Courier and radio interviews given. A talk to the KI Beef Producers Group in 2022, was well received.

A brochure has been developed and is being widely distributed.

Updated Information to Stakeholders: A comprehensive list of stakeholders from federal government to the local KI council, fire menagement etc who will receive regular updates of the status and distribution of all threatened species on the island. These aim to reduce the possibility of potential habitat clearing or damage.

2021 Submission to the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1919 (EPBC Act)

We have identified that an endemic ecological community, King Island Scrub Complex (TASVEG SSK), has been reduced through land clearing to dangerously low levels.  An application to have this community listed as Endangered under the EPBC Act was submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, in March 2021.  In October, 2022, it was accepted by the EPBC for assessment, a process that is still being undertaken.

 

2022-23 Enhancing King Island Brown Thornbill habitat patches for future corridors - ongoing.

The KI Brown Thornbill (KIBT) was identified as a priority threatened species by the Federal government in 2021.  Funding from the Environment Restoration Fund, Priority Species Grants, 2021 was received in May, 2022, to begin the reconnection of the two largest remaining populations of KIBT, by fencing and replanting as required, to form corridors and stepping stones of vegetation to allow safe movement pathways between the two populations.  

 

The project began in June, 2022 with stage one of the reconnecting plan, fencing along the Lancaster and Barrier Creek remnant forest, from Pegarah Reserve through to already established fencing that surrounds the Barrier Creek Gorge.  

 

While this first-step project is due to be completed at the end of March, there have been some barriers to progress, with the most significant being the cost of fencing materials and contractors fees rising significantly since the original application for funds in 2021.  Consequently, we have had to reduce the total area we can fence in this project.  However, we expect to end up with a significantly important fully protected remnant that will extend good quality habitat for the KIBT.  

2023 Building community capacity to restore native vegetation and monitor impacts of restoration effort

 

Funding for this project was received from ANZ Seeds of Renewal program in 2023. It will build capacity of the King Island community to restore native vegetation, monitor restoration impacts, and adapt effort based on results, through the development of a ‘Restoration Kit’ that will include past experience on King Island, a monitoring form and train community representatives to train others in restoration benefits, approaches and monitoring. 

2019 TS Recovery Group Image-4 copy.jpg

Attendees of the King Island Threatened Species workshop, 2019 

Land clearing x Hydro Ridges Rd 2018.jpg

Land clearing on King Island, 2021 x Kate Ravich

 Threatened birds of King Island Conservation Action Plan - Information Brochure, 2023

King Island Bird Conservation Action Plan, Document 2021

Healthy SSK 2 x KMA.jpg

Regenerating King Island Scrub Complex x Kate Ravich

Shelter Belt KI Greg Morris copy.jpg

Safe pathways of movement for small birds x Kate Ravich

Community Ed - WoK and KIBCAP presentation .jpg

King Island Community Meeting, Presenter Dr Phil Bell  x Ash Kennedy

Screenshot 2023-01-30 at 2.49.42 pm.png

Southern King Island showing areas of high priority for revegetation corridors to reconnect populations of King Island Brown Thornbill.

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