Robin's a species in serious decline

The scarlet robin (Petroica boodang) is a small, insectivorous woodland bird whose male population sports a bright red breast and a white cap, making them quite noticeable in the paddocks and around the homesteads they visit in the cooler months.  While many of us are lucky enough to still see these robins, they are a species in serious decline.  In 2010, Petroica boodang was listed as a vulnerable species in NSW. Comparative evidence from broad scale surveys conducted over the last 40 years shows a linear decline over three generations.  Declines of over 20 per cent are recorded in the robins core NSW Bioregions.  It was determined by the NSW Scientific committee that the scarlet robin is facing a high risk of extinction in New South Wales in the medium-term future.

This information marks a serious call for action; however the scarlet robin is one of a suite of woodland birds facing the same fate. This species, along with the Hooded Robin, the Flame Robin, Diamond Firetail, Speckled Warbler, Brown Tree-creeper, Gang-gang Cockatoo and Glossy Black Cockatoo are reliant on a woodland habitat that offers structural complexity such as  increased tree canopy cover, a shrub layer, ground cover, logs, fallen branches and leaf litter (Watson et al. 2003). The loss and/or degradation of this habitat is referred to in the as a Key Threatening Process.

South East Local Land Services are seeking community support and involvement for a project called ‘Save Our Scarlet Robin’ funded by the NSW Government via it’s Environmental Trust.  The project will run for 10 years (2016-2026) providing a great opportunity to make real inroads into securing the future of the Scarlet Robin in the South East. The involvement of the community is vital to the recovery and long term security of the threatened woodland birds in our region.  By becoming more aware of the needs of the birds we can improve the quality of their habitat, the loss of which is the largest threat they face. 

Fallen timber left on the ground is an important need for woodland birds. The rotting timber drives an invertebrate community which provides a rich food source to the birds. It also provides the ideal perch spot of around a meter high from which they hunt their insect prey. The fallen timber is also vital for providing shelter in its hollows, an absolute necessity to quolls, goannas, snakes and the small mammals and marsupials of a woodland. Standing dead timber is equally important for its hollows for birds and arboreal mammals (like sugar gliders) as well as micro-bats. Additionally, standing dead timber offers a clear vantage point to birds of prey.

A further need for these threatened woodland birds is for a ‘midstorey’ layer of vegetation.  The midstorey refers to the variety of bushes and trees that sit underneath the overstorey, or canopy. It is largely around 2m high in woodlands of the South East. This varies in other ecological plant communities. Domestic grazing (intensive/set stocking) and cultivation has largely reduced the existence of midstorey vegetation, thereby seriously reducing the safe feeding and nesting possibilities for woodland birds such as the Scarlet Robin. The bushy mid-storey layer is important to woodland birds for its provision of cover (protection from predators) and in attracting insects to pollinate the variety of flowers you will find on diverse midstorey vegetation.  It need not be continuous, though patches of midstorey within 50-100m of each other are ideal.

We work with land managers by looking at the whole-farm and designing a plan that secures the long term integration of native flora and fauna values with long-term farm productivity goals, and then take steps to work toward these goals.  The process is often rewarding and easier that expected.

The program offers financial support to landholders who wish to protect, improve and expand existing woodland habitat and/or establish new habitat by creating corridors or patches of a viable size for the birds to use. Viable connectivity through the landscape may also be achieved in part by ‘stepping stones’. These are smaller areas aimed at ensuring the survival of existing paddock trees at the same time as creating a safe harbour for a bird’s passage across open paddocks.  Though not generally viable for small woodland bird nesting, they play a disproportionately large role to the conservation of native flora and fauna, as well as providing important shelter to livestock.

Save Our Scarlet Robin Landholder grants are available in four target areas.  These are the Braidwood, Burra, Michelago or Bredbo and Delegate areas. Landholders have the opportunity to apply for funding to assist in the following:

  • Protecting remnants with an area of at least 2ha by
  • Fencing the remnant to manage grazing
  • Fencing the remnant and expanding the size, encouraging natural regeneration and/or planting trees and shrubs
  • Planting trees and shrubs within your remnant
  • Managing grassy weeds and berry bearing bushes
  • Monitoring and managing feral animals including foxes and cats
  • Re-vegetation to improve habitat connectivity – both linear and ‘stepping stone’ patches
  • Protecting native riparian vegetation by:
  • Fencing along waterways to manage livestock grazing
  • Installing an alternative (off-stream) watering supply

Planting trees and shrubs to increase the diversity and/or increase the size of the existing remnant vegetation.

Support funding is available up to $10,000 per property, and managed for a minimum of 10 years as per a South East Local Land Services management agreement.  All funding available to landholders is expected to be matched with input from the landholder in either cash or in-kind contributions. If you are interested in finding out more please contact Felicity Sturgiss at South East Local Land Services on 4842 2594 or email felicity.sturgiss@lls.nsw.gov.au Expressions of interest for Round 2 close on August 31, 2017.