WINGS ON KING
A PROJECT TO FIND AND TELL THE STORY OF KING ISLAND'S BIRDS
Why do we need a bird-monitoring project on King Island?
In 2014, following ongoing land clearances and an unsuccessful push to install a large 200 mill wind-farm, the King Island Landcare Group determined that we needed to establish a method of monitoring the natural environment on King Island. This method needed to provide accurate data that would allow the Group and the island to understand what impacts human activities were having on the integrity of King Island's natural health.
This determination led to the establishment of the Wings on King project that commenced in 2017. Monitoring the birds of King Island was chosen for the following reasons:
King Island is an Important Bird Area
An Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) is an area identified using an internationally agreed set of criteria as being globally important for the conservation of bird populations. King Island was nominated and listed as an IBA in 2006.
Located in the middle of the Western entrance to Bass Strait, half-way between the mainland and Tasmania, King Island acts as a biological stepping-stone between the two. The island is home to many resident species including ten of the twelve Tasmanian endemics and boasts nine King Island sub-species. Of these subspecies:
- three are identified as Critically Endangered with the King Island Brown Thornbill and the King Island Scrubtit listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Act, 1999 (EPBC Act) while the third, the King Island Black
Currawong has been identified by the Action Plan for Australian
Birds 2020* (Garnet and Baker, 2021) as now being critically endangered rather than Vulnerable as it is listed under the EPBC Act.
- The King Island Green Rosella and the King Island Yellow Wattlebird
have been identified as Endangered in The Action Plan 2020*
- the other King Island subspecies being the KI Dusky Robin, Tasmanian
Thornbill, Superb Fairy-wren and Tasmanian Scrubwren are all
considered to have sustainable populations although the Dusky Robin
is considered to be Vulnerable in Tasmania.*
* Species identified as threatened at some level in the Action Plan for Australian Birds, 2020, but have
different listings under the EPBC Act, have not yet had the scientific work submitted to change their EPBC Listings. This will be undertaken in due course.
King Island has a Ramsar site
In 1982, Lavinia State Reserve, including the Sea Elephant River estuary, was established as a Ramsar site - a wetland of international importance.
A vital stopover for many birds migrating across Bass Strait such as the
Critically Endangered Orange-bellied and Swift Parrots, as well as being the summer residence of international travellers such as the Ruddy Turnstone, Red-necked Stint and Greenshank. King Island also has breeding migrants
such as Short-tailed Shearwaters, Fairy and Little Terns during the spring and summer, while the winter brings many Double-banded plovers, that breed in the high country of NZ, spending their winter holidays in the comparative warmth of the island.
Birds as Indictors of Environmental Health
Birds utilise almost all areas of almost all environments worldwide. So their presence, absence and abundance in an area can be used to understand the overall environmental health of that area and can indicate changes occurring before it is too late to fix them. Using birds as 'indicator species' is a well recognised, scientifically valid method of monitoring the sustainability of an area.
Given the number of important and threatened birds that live or utilise King Island, it is also the obvious method to choose.
- Long-term monitoring
Long-term, systematic monitoring of land-birds has never been undertaken on King Island. Twenty one sites were set up in 2001 and monitored twice, but until Wings on King commenced, these had not been monitored again. Although there is random incidental monitoring of birds on the Island which provides important information, its use for conservation management is limited. However, long-term regular monitoring provides insights into changes that may be occurring.
King Island's long-term sustainability
The fact that three King Island bird subspecies are identified as critically endangered and a further two as Endangered, is a strong indication that there is ongoing loss of biodiversity - species richness - occurring on King Island. With increasing pressure on the island's biological systems this loss of biodiversity is likely to increase over time, reducing the long-term sustainability of the island.
Wings on King Project Overview
- monitor 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;
- establish how the Bass Strait migrating birds use the Island when they are here
- watch for evidence of southward drifts in distribution ranges of mainland land birds
- Over 60 established monitoring sites are situated in differing land usage zones, landscape elements, vegetation communities and habitat qualities on both private and public land across the island.
- Surveys are undertaken as often as possible, with organised events in spring and autumn to ensure at least biannual data is collected.
- Bird enthusiasts from everywhere, are invited to visit the island and join local enthusiasts to collect data.
- Participants require registration to ensure they are covered by insurance and to allow the project team to ensure all the sites are monitored.
Using the data
Changes in populations and status of both common and endangered birds, will alert us to changes in the natural environment and allow targeted conservation initiatives.
The arrival and establishment of new or previously irregular bird visitors may indicate southward drifts in distribution ranges of mainland land birds in response to a changing climate.
About the Wings on King project plan or to discuss the project in more detail, please contact us.
Magic of King Island birds
King 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.
How can you help?
This project is being undertaken entirely by local volunteers and we need your help. Register for Wings on King, visit the island and help us discover and tell the stories of King Islands Birds