Threatened Endemic Birds of
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)
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)
Beach erosion, Quarantine Beach, King Island, 2022
King Island Brown Thornbill x Wildlife Images
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.
King Island Brown Thornbill x Barry Baker
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 Black Currawong x Kate Ravich
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).
King Island Yellow Wattlebird x Kate Ravich
King Island Black Currawong x Barry Baker
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
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.
King Island Green Rosella x Donna Reeman
Conserving the Birds of King Island
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Steering Committee Chair: Kate Ravich, email@example.com or mobile: 61 417 487 263
Conservation Actions and Projects - updated 08.02.23
2020-22: Defining and mapping habitat requirements to support the survival of King Island threatened birds. COMPLETE
This project was funded by the Australian Government's National Landcare program and managed by the Cradle Coast Natural Resource Management Authority. It was led by Dr Phil Bell and a team of ornithologists/ecologists.
Commencing in 2020 it was completed at the end of 2022. The information obtained through this project is foundational information for the TBKICAP committee and has also provided important ground-truthed vegetation mapping for planners and landholders on King Island via TASVEG.
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 - in progress
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.
2023 Summary Report
2023 Final Report
Attendees of the King Island Threatened Species workshop, 2019
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
Regenerating King Island Scrub Complex x Kate Ravich
Safe pathways of movement for small birds x Kate Ravich
King Island Community Meeting, Presenter Dr Phil Bell x Ash Kennedy
Southern King Island showing areas of high priority for revegetation corridors to reconnect populations of King Island Brown Thornbill.