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Scarcity of Certain Australian Birds

A. S. Le Souef
Publication Information
2 (March-April)
From Field and Study

Scarcity of Certain Australian Birds

The fact that some Australian birds are becoming increasingly scarce has given concern to our ornithologists, and special efforts are being made to find out the reasons. The main factors are no doubt settlement of the country and the introduction of the rabbit, fox and cat; for it can be noted that only ground birds are affected. One species that only diligent search can find is the Black-throated Coach-whip Bird (Psophodes nigrigularis). This species has a comparatively small range in southwestern Australia, inhabiting dense brush where it is probably safe from introduced enemies; but the settlers destroy its habitat by fire in order to clear the land for more useful herbage. Atrichornis clamosa, inhabiting the same districts and something of the same class of country, but with a more restricted habitat, is seemingly even more scarce, and may be extinct. This bird draws attention to its whereabouts by its song, and has likely been an easy prey to Felis domestica.

Some of our ground parrots, which forty years ago were very numerous, are now reported only occasionally, and this scarcity extends, not only over settled districts, but also to uninhabited country. The Scarlet-shouldered Parrot (Psephotus pulcherrimus) is now apparently confined to one small district. It would seem that its habit of nesting in ant hills, in a position exposed to enemies, has been the cause of its undoing, for practically all its habitat is settled. Other birds of the same genus, and much the same habits, but nesting in trees, are as numerous as ever they were in settled districts. Grass parrots of the genus Neophema, quiet and retiring little birds, were the first to go before advancing occupation of the land by sheep and cattle. The habitat of some species, however, extends into the uninhabited wilds, but even here it would seem that the alteration of the herbage by the introduced rabbit has had its effect. The Ground Parrots (Pezoporus and Geopsittacus), entirely terrestial in their habits, are now, as far as we can ascertain, only found in a few restricted localities, though they may be holding their own in parts of the interior.

The great majority of our birds, however, are not affected by any delimiting factor, and are still extremely numerous. Even in our cities many indigenous species accept the changed conditions without any difficulty or protest. In this we are very fortunate, for it is a great pleasure to have the wild birds give us their confidence, thus adding to the interest of our parks and gardens.

A. S. Le Souef

Taronga Zoological Park, Sydney, Australia, December 2, 1925

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