March 2019 | Sarah Lloyd
TASMANIA HAS a special bird fauna, with many species found nowhere else. Some, the Tasmanian Native-hen, the Black Currawong and the largest honeyeater in Australia, the Yellow Wattlebird, are conspicuous. But others are easily overlooked - Scrubtits, Tasmanian Thornbills and Tasmanian Scrubwrens are cryptic birds of wetter habitats; the endemic honeyeaters (Yellow-throated, Strongbilled and Black-headed) forage high in the canopy of eucalypts and rarely descend to the understorey; and the tiny, leaf-sized Forty-spotted Pardalote is now only found in the woodlands of the south and south-east.
In the past two hundred years the Tasmanian landscape has changed irrevocably and there is no doubt that this has been disastrous for birds. Cities and towns are encroaching on bushland; agricultural activities, once restricted to the most fertile soils, are expanding and intensifying and native forests are being decimated to feed our voracious appetite for timber products. A wave of bird declines and extinctions is sweeping the planet and island populations are the most vulnerable.
Their inherently small size, vulnerability to habitat modification, fragmentation and introduced predators, especially cats and rats, and the changing climate are taking their toll. Birds are part of our everyday lives; we are captivated by their antics, beautiful colours and melodious songs.
They have crucial ecological roles in controlling insect populations, pollinating plants and dispersing seeds. Birds have an intrinsic right to exist; we can all play a part in ensuring they do.