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Research Activities

How is the Waterbirds Theme collecting waterbird breeding and movement information?

We’re aiming to collect information through field research in and around known waterbird nesting sites at wetlands within the Murray-Darling Basin. We’ll be using three exciting techniques to collect data:

On-ground field surveys

Field surveys will be conducted at breeding sites to identify the species breeding, track the number and size of breeding colonies (which can change over time during a breeding season), monitor changes in water levels, and identify critical nesting habitat characteristics.  Field surveys will also be conducted at foraging sites to identify critical foraging habitat locations and characteristics and estimate foraging success rates.

Satellite GPS tracking devices and bird banding

Satellite GPS tracking devices will be deployed on straw-necked ibis adults and juveniles to track movements of individuals during and after nesting. From this data we can identify where and how far birds are travelling to feed and to get food for chicks, where juvenile birds are dispersing to once independent, and where adults disperse to after breeding. We also expect to be able to establish whether individuals return to the same sites to breed in subsequent years. This will be one of the largest satellite GPS tracking studies of any bird species in Australia. We’ll also be attaching identification bands to the legs of birds to permanently track their individual movements throughout Australia, contributing valuable knowledge to the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS).

Motion-sensing and time-lapse cameras

Monitoring cameras will be focused on nests in breeding colonies throughout the breeding season. By analysing camera images we’ll be able to quantify the feeding frequency and survival of chicks through to fledging, and the influence of threats like predation and water level changes. All these factors are essential to filling our two critical knowledge gaps.

 

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Setting up a camera within reed beds at the Barmah-Millewa Forest. Image credit: Heather McGinness

 

What was achieved during a pilot study?

We’ve undertaken a pilot study in the summer 2015-2016 breeding season at Barmah-Millewa Forest. Barmah-Millewa is an important waterbird breeding site on the Murray River and also a Ramsar listed wetland. We set up motion-sensing and time-lapse cameras at the nests of Australian white ibis, straw-necked ibis and royal spoonbills. Our cameras monitored nests from the egg stage through to the time juvenile birds began to leave. So far our analysis of the camera images has provided us with preliminary recruitment data, as well as giving us new insights into the nesting behaviours of these species.

 

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Australian white ibis, straw-necked ibis and royal spoonbills nest in the reed beds within the Barmah-Millewa Forest. Image credit: Freya Robinson

 

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A motion-sensing image captured by one of our cameras set up on a royal spoonbill nest at the Barmah-Millewa Forest during the summer 2015-2016 pilot study. The two parents protect their nest containing a newly hatched chick. Image credit: CSIRO

 

 

Take a look at our 2016-2017 field season activities at the Macquarie Marshes and Barmah-Millewa Forest