The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000

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Stephen T. Garnett - Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, and Gabriel M. Crowley - Birds Australia
Environment Australia, 2000
ISBN 0 6425 4683 5

Introduction

1.1 Aim of the Action Plan

The aim of the Action Plan is to:

provide a national overview of the conservation status of all birds occurring in Australian territory against IUCN categories, identify threats and recommend actions to minimise those threats; identify habitats or areas of particular importance for bird conservation including key areas or habitats for threatened taxa; identify processes that threaten birds, and identify areas where these processes are a problem; recommend conservation priorities including research and management actions.

1.2 Methods

In early 1999, a complete list of the species and subspecies of Australian birds was assembled. For each taxon, an assessment of the probability of extinction was made against the IUCN guidelines (IUCN, 1994). Accounts for all threatened and near threatened taxa as defined by the IUCN were then prepared. As each was completed, it was circulated to State and Territory authorities in whose jurisdiction the taxon occurred, to ornithologists with expertise in those or related taxa, to other interested members of Birds Australia and to the public at large. Copies were also placed on a web site from which responses were solicited. An additional set of texts were prepared on a selection of taxa for which concern has been expressed in the past, but which were assessed not to meet current criteria for listing as threatened or near threatened.

When drafts were complete, we visited all States and Territories to discuss the assessments. Drafts were refined on the basis of comments received from all quarters, including a comparison with a revision of Birds to Watch 2 (Collar et al., 1994) being prepared by BirdLife International. Final versions of all texts were circulated in April 2000. Final comments were incorporated by 30 June 2000.

1.3 Formats for assessment

Accounts are in two forms. Recovery Outlines have been prepared for all threatened taxa and include detailed actions and indicative budgets. Briefer Taxon Summaries have been prepared for Extinct, Near Threatened and Least Concern taxa.

Recovery outlines

1. Family

Family definition and order follows Christidis and Boles (1994), which is also being adopted by the Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Recent revisions by, for example, Schodde and Mason (1997, 1999) and Stanger et al., (1998), have not been adopted, pending more general review, to maintain consistency across widespread ornithological publications. A single exception was made in the use of Eupetidae for Cinclosomatidae on the basis of seniority of the former name (see Schodde and Mason, 1999).

2. Scientific name

Genera and species follow Christidis and Boles (1994) except for albatrosses, some hawk-owls and grasswrens. For albatrosses we followed Robertson and Nunn (1998), despite the inadequacy of this taxonomic treatment, in order to maintain consistency with the draft action plan for albatrosses and giant-petrels (EABG, 1999) and federal legislation. For Boobook Ninox boobook and Christmas Island Hawk-Owl N. natalis we followed Norman et al. (1998) and for grasswrens we followed Christidis (1999) and (Schodde and Mason, 1999). Many other shifts between genera and species proposed by Schodde and Mason (1999) may also be justified but, like the rearrangements of family, have not been followed here, in order to maintain consistency with concurrent publications, particularly the forthcoming volumes of the Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds.

At the subspecies level, we have followed Marchant and Higgins (1990, 1993) and Higgins and Davies (1996) for all taxa from ratites to terns. For pigeons to dollar birds we have followed Higgins and Davies (1996), Schodde and Mason (1997) and Higgins (1999). Where there are discrepancies between these treatments, the taxonomy adopted in the Action Plan is justified in the text. For passerines, we have followed Schodde and Mason (1999). Use of this treatment of passerine subspecies is justified on the basis that Schodde and Mason (1999) represents the first comprehensive review of passerine subspecies for over 70 years, and is also to be adopted in forthcoming volumes of the Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds (L. Christidis).

Subspecies are presented in order of their geographical occurrence, starting in north-west Australia, and following in a clockwise direction, wherever possible.

3. Common name

Vernacular names usually follow Christidis and Boles (1994) unless superceded by recent taxonomy, or where the vernacular name is well-established elsewhere in the world (e.g. White-chested White-eye for Zosterops albogularis, see Schodde and Mason, 1999).

4. Conservation status

The IUCN (1994) devised the following red list categories, with the criteria used to define the threatened categories being specified in Table 1.1.

  • Extinct (EX): A taxon is Extinct when there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual has died.
  • Extinct in the Wild (EW): A taxon is Extinct in the Wild when it is known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population (or populations) well outside the past range. A taxon is presumed Extinct in the Wild when exhaustive surveys in known and/or expected habitat, at appropriate times (diurnal, seasonal, annual), throughout its historic range have failed to record an individual. Surveys should be over a time frame appropriate to the taxon’s life cycle and life form.
  • Critically Endangered (CR): A taxon is Critically Endangered when it is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future, as defined by any of the criteria A to E in Table 1.1.
  • Endangered (EN): A taxon is Endangered when it is not Critically Endangered but is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future, as defined by any of the criteria A to E in Table 1.1.
  • Vulnerable (VU): A taxon is Vulnerable when it is neither Critically Endangered nor Endangered, but is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future, as defined by any of the criteria A to E in Table 1.1.
  • Lower Risk (LR): A taxon is Lower Risk when it has been evaluated, does not satisfy the criteria for any of the above categories. Taxa included in the Lower Risk category are separated into three subcategories:
  • Conservation Dependent (CD): Taxa that are the focus of a continuing taxon-specific or habitat-specific conservation program targeted towards the taxon in question, the cessation of which would result in the taxon qualifying for one of the threatened categories above within a period of five years.
  • Near Threatened (NT): Taxa that do not qualify for Conservation Dependent, but which are close to qualifying for Vulnerable (see criteria below)
  • Least Concern (LC): Taxa which do not qualify for Conservation Dependent or Near Threatened.
  • Data Deficient (DD): A taxon is Data Deficient when there is inadequate information to make a direct, or indirect, assessment of its risk of extinction based on its distribution and/or population status. A taxon in this category may be well studied, and its biology well known, but appropriate data on abundance and/or distribution is lacking. Data Deficient is therefore not a category of threat or Lower Risk. Listing of taxa in this category indicates that more information is required and acknowledges the possibility that future research will show that threatened classification is appropriate. It is important to make positive use of whatever data are available. In many cases great care should be exercised in choosing between DD and threatened status. If the range of the taxon is suspected to be relatively circumscribed, if a considerable period of time has elapsed since the last record of the taxon, threatened status may well be justified.
  • Not Evaluated (NE): A taxon is Not Evaluated when it has not yet been assessed against the criteria.

Four criteria were used to define Near Threatened taxa more precisely than by the IUCN, based on Maxwell et al. (1996):

  1. Reduced area of occupancy and/or extent of occurrence: Taxa that have disappeared from over 50% of their former area of occupancy and/or extent of occurrence and are at risk of further decline.
  2. Declined in abundance: Taxa that have experienced a significant and continuing decline in abundance in over 50% of their former area of occupancy and/or extent of occurrence.
  3. Small populations: Taxa with populations smaller than 3,000 mature individuals, or of unknown population size but suspected to be small.
  4. Regionally secure populations: Taxa with small or restricted populations in Australia (hence could qualify as Vulnerable: D1 or D2) that are genetically continuous with secure regional populations. Such taxa were downgraded as per (Gärdenfors et al., 1999).

Category b. of Maxwell et al. (op. cit.), taxa with an extent of occurrence of < 20,000 km² or an area of occupancy of < 2,000 km², was not used because it was considered too all-encompassing and that birds encompassed by category b. did not closely approach Near Threatened under the IUCN definition.

Although there was often uncertainty about the parameters on which the status was assessed, no birds assessed in this Action Plan are listed as Data Deficient. This decision was taken because the Action Plan was commissioned to guide government policy and policy must be based on the best estimates available, however flawed. For this reason all taxa listed as Insufficiently Known in the 1992 Action Plan (Garnett, 1992) had to be reclassified, soon after publication, into the most likely of the other categories. Work was less likely to be undertaken on taxa classified as Insufficiently Known than on taxa for which the threatened status was identified.

5. Reasons for listing

Explanation of how the IUCN criteria are applied to the taxon, based on information from life history table. This table includes estimates of parameters required to assess status under the IUCN criteria, as per Table 1.2.

Uncertainty about estimates is usually expressed as a mean with an error and a range. These statistics can be used to determine the fuzziness of the status ascribed to many taxa (as per Regan et al., 2000). Such precise statistics are available so rarely, however, that it was decided to make a single estimate of each parameter, thus making it possible to apply the criteria, and then make an estimate of the scale of the range around that estimate. The estimate of reliability is itself more subjective for parameters about which there is greater uncertainty, but this uncertainty was tolerated for want of better information.

Table 1.1: Criteria used to define conservation status (IUCN, 1994)
Criteria for assessment of status Critically Endangered Endangered Vulnerable
A Population reduction in the form of either of the following:1) An observed, estimated, inferred or suspected reduction of at least …, based on (and specifying) any of the following:
  1. direct observation
  2. an index of abundance appropriate for the taxon
  3. a decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence and/or quality of habitat
  4. actual or potential levels of exploitation
  5. the effects of introduced taxa, hybridisation, pathogens, pollutants, competitors or parasites, OR
2) A reduction of at least …%, projected or suspected to be met within the next ten years or three generations, whichever is the longer, based on (and specifying) any of (b), (c), (d) or (e) above.
…80% over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer …50% over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer …20% over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer
B Extent of occurrence estimated to be less than … km² or area of occupancy estimated to be less than … km², and estimates indicating any two of the following:1) Severely fragmented or known to exist at … location.

2) Continuing decline, observed, inferred or projected, in any of the following:
  1. extent of occurrence
  2. area of occupancy
  3. area, extent and/or quality of habitat
  4. number of locations or sub-populations
  5. number of mature individuals.
3) Extreme fluctuations in any of the following:
  1. extent of occurrence
  2. area of occupancy
  3. number of locations or sub-populations
  4. number of mature individuals.
Extent of occurrence < 100 km²

Area of occupancy estimated < 10 km²


…1 location
Extent of occurrence < 5,000 km²

Area of occupancy estimated < 500 km²


…< 6 locations
Extent of occurrence < 20,000 km²

Area of occupancy estimated < 2,000 km²

…< 11 locations
C Population estimated to number less than … mature individuals and either

1) An estimated continuing decline of at least …, whichever is longer, OR

2) A continuing decline, observed, projected, or inferred, in numbers of mature individuals and population structure in the form of either:
  1. severely fragmented (i.e. no sub-population estimated to contain more than … mature individuals)
  2. all individuals are in a single sub-population.
…250…

25% within 3 years or 1 generation


…50…
…2,500…

25% within 3 years or 2 generations


…250…
…10,000…

10% within 10 years or 3 generations


…1,000…
D Population estimated to number less than 50 mature individuals, OR

Population is characterised by an acute restriction in its area of occupancy (typically less than 100 km²) or in the number of locations (typically less than 5). Such a taxon would thus be prone to the effects of human activities (or stochastic events whose impact is increased by human activities) within a short period of time in an unforeseeable future, and is thus capable of becoming Critically Endangered or even Extinct in a short period.
…50…

does not apply
…250…

does not apply
…1,000…

applies
E Quantitative analysis showing the probability of extinction in the wild is at least…  . 50% within 10 years or 3 generations, whichever is the longer 20% within 20 years or 5 generations, whichever is the longer 10% within 100 years
Table 1.2: Life history data needed to define conservation status
Parameter Estimate Reliability
Extent of occurrence Km², the area inside a line drawn round the outer perimeter of all sub-populations. For globally threatened species, this area has been calculated using the BirdLife International GIS; for others the area has been estimated from published maps. For seabirds the EOO is the area within the Australian Fishing Zone over which the species forages. High: within 10% of stated figure with details summarised under section 8;

Medium: within 50% of stated figure, also with details summarised under section 8;

Low: usually within one order of magnitude of stated figure based on knowledge of distribution
Trend Decreasing, stable or increasing. Rate of change, if any, specified in Section 5 with available evidence summarised Section 8. High: trend in EOO documented;

Medium: trend in EOO considered likely based on documentation;

Low: trend in EOO suspected but evidence equivocal.
Area of occupancy Km², the number of 1 km² grid squares in which the species is thought to occur at the time when its population is at its most constrained. For seabirds this will be the area of land on which they breed. High: within 10% of stated figure with details summarised under section 8;

Medium: within 50% of stated figure, also with details summarised under section 8;

Low: usually within one order of magnitude of stated figure based on knowledge of distribution
Trend Decreasing, stable or increasing; rate of change, if any, specified in section 5 with available evidence summarised Section 8. High: trend in AOO documented;

Medium: trend in AOO considered likely based on documentation;

Low: trend in AOO suspected but evidence equivocal.
No. of breeding birds: Based on an estimate of the number of the limiting sex multiplied by two. This will be an over-estimate because usually a relatively small proportion of breeding individuals contribute to recruitment, especially in Australia where so many bird taxa breed communally. Where possible account is taken of these compounding demographic variables. High: within 10% of stated figure with details summarised under section 8;

Medium: within 50% of stated figure, also with details summarised under section 8;

Low: usually within 100% of stated figure based on such factors as estimated AOO and any available data on density.
Trend Decreasing, stable or increasing; rate of change, if any, specified in section 5 with available evidence summarised Section 8. High: trend documented;

Medium: trend considered likely based on documentation;

Low: trend suspected but evidence equivocal.
No. of sub-populations Number of reproductively-isolated groups between which there is little likelihood of significant genetic exchange High: number of sub-populations documented and, based on the biology the taxon, their genetic isolation highly likely;

Medium: number of sub-populations estimated and, based on the biology the taxon, their genetic isolation probable;

Low: uncertainty about the number of sub-populations and/or extent of genetic separation.
Largest sub-population As per number of breeding birds; not included if there is only one sub-population, i.e. there is likely to be relatively free flow of genes across population, even if the AOO is very large As for No. of breeding birds
Generation time Years; the average age of the breeding birds. This was most readily calculated from the annual probability of survival of adults according to the formula (see Burkitt, 1926):

G=(Average age of first breeding - 1) + 1/(1-S) where

G = Generation time

S = annual probability of survival.

Where such data was unavailable, generation time was estimated on the basis of size, fecundity and data from related taxa. This figure is compounded for most taxa by the disproportionate number of progeny produced by experienced breeding birds.
High: life history data documented;

Medium: life history data available for related taxa in a similar environment;

Low: no reliable life history data.
Global population share  %; for birds breeding within Australian territory High: Australian and global populations thought to have been estimated accurately to within 10%;

Medium: Australian and global populations thought to have been estimated accurately to within 50%;

Low: Australian and/or global populations poorly known
Level of genetic exchange The probability of genetic exchange with populations outside Australia occurring at least once per generation High: exchange documented or Australian and extra-limital population in such proximity (ie.. northern islands of Torres Strait) that exchange almost certain to occur;

Medium: trend considered likely based on documentation;

Low: trend suspected but evidence equivocal
6. Infraspecific taxa

For each outline or summary, all other subspecies found in Australia are presented, together with their conservation status. The names and conservation statuses of extralimital taxa are presented only where this is relevant to the status of Australian taxa.

7. Past range and abundance

All historical information is used to construct a past description of range and abundance. Where there is only limited information on abundance, or it is largely suppositional, we have discussed abundance only under Section 8.

8. Present range and abundance

Current range and abundance are derived from the most recent data available with the baseline for most taxa being Blakers et al (1984). Additional information for individual taxa was obtained from both published and reliable, unpublished reports including, for a few taxa, the Birds Australia Atlas. The boundary employed to distinguish between past and present varies between taxa. Generally the division is placed between any major changes in abundance.

The map uses a 1.5 x 1 degree grid as per the Marsupial Action Plan. Distributions are based largely on the Atlas of Australian Birds 1984 (Blakers et al., 1984) and HANZAB, with additions where either of these are known to have missed records or where there have been recent declines. Obvious vagrant records are excluded.

9. Ecology

Describes use of habitat and, where appropriate, breeding biology.

10. Threats

Summarises processes most likely, to threaten the taxon with extinction, as well as those likely to kill individuals, although the relationship between the death of individuals from a cause and the relative contribution of that cause of death to the probability of extinction has rarely been determined.

11. Information required

Includes both research and surveys

12. Recovery objectives

Long-term aims that provide indicators of the taxon's recovery

13. Actions completed or under way

Includes many on-going tasks.

14. Management actions required

Actions that are additional to those listed in Section 13.

15. Organisations responsible for conservation

State, Territory, or Commonwealth agencies directly responsible for management of threatened taxa.

16. Other organisations involved

Includes other groups associated with in recovery planning and management. Relevant experts on a taxon can usually be derived from the Comments received from section, although this will not be comprehensive.

17. Staff and financial resources required for recovery to be carried out
Staff and financial resources required for recovery to be carried out1
Staff resources required 2001–2005
x.x Project Officer/Extension Officer2
x.x Field Assistant/Technical Officer3
Financial resources required 2001–2005
Action Conservation agencies4 Other funding sources5 Total
Action6 $x $x $x
Total $x $x $x

Notes:
1 Where possible based on Recovery Plans or equivalent documents. Figures should be considered indicative only and should be recalculated for project budgeting purposes.
2 $50,000 to $70,000 per year depending on location; calculated for full five year period; thus 0.2 = one employee for one year or 0.2 full-time equivalents for 5 years.
3 $30,000 to $50,000 per year depending on location; also calculated for full five year period.
4 Includes Commonwealth, State and Territory funding but not local government.
5 Includes volunteer in kind support.
6 Derived from Sections 11, 13 and 14 above.

Text adapted from

Acknowledges authors of texts in Garnett (1992) where basic data on the conservation status of the taxon derived from that publication. Other texts are new or have been substantially revised or updated.

Taxon Summaries

Taxon summaries have been prepared for Extinct, Near Threatened and some Least Concern taxa. The format follows that of Recovery Outlines except that Sections 11 to 17 are replaced by Recommended actions, which combine Sections 11, 13 and 14 of Recovery Outlines, but do not include estimates of budget or staffing requirements or the attribution of responsibility for conservation.

Regional Descriptions

Map sheets that contain at least 5 threatened taxa and/or 10 Near Threatened taxa have been identified as areas in which conservation planning could usefully be coordinated. These have been grouped together on an ecological basis using the Integrated Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA; Thackway and Cresswell, 1996) and the IBRA Provincial Regions (Environment Australia, Biodiversity group, 1998). Each of the 18 Coordinated Conservation Plans describes the ecological features of the area covered by the plan; a list of core taxa to which the plan applies and which share recommended management actions; a summary of conservation issues of the region based on the recovery outlines and taxon summaries; a list of actions that will benefit the core taxa outlined lists of organisations responsible for the region and of others with an interest in the taxa included.

It is hoped that these regional descriptions will form the basis of coordinated conservation management of the taxa concerned, such as has been undertaken so successfully by the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team along the south-west coast of Western Australia.

1.4 Bibliography

Blakers, M., Davies, S. J. J. F. and Reilly, P. N. 1984. The Atlas of Australian Birds. RAOU and Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Burkitt, J. P. 1926. A study of the robin by means of marked birds. British Birds 20:91–101.

Christidis , L. 1999. Evolution and biogeography of the Australian grasswrens, Amytornis (Aves: Maluridae): biochemical perspectives. Aust. J. Zool. 47:113–124.

Christidis, L. and Boles, W.E. 1994. The taxonomy and species of birds of Australia and its territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union Monograph 2: 1–112.

Collar, N., N.J., Crosby, M. J. and Stattersfield, A. J. 1944. Birds to Watch 2: the world list of threatened birds. BirdLife International, Cairns.

EABG 1999. Draft Recovery Plan for Albatrosses and Giant Petrels. Environment Australia Biodiversity Group, Canberra.

Environment Australia, Biodiversity Group. 1998. IBRA Provincial Regions (regions grouped by Agro-Ecological Regions of Australia). Environment Australia, Canberra.

Gärdenfors, U., Rodríguez, J.P., Hilton-Taylor, C., Hyslop, C., Mace, G., Molur, S. and Poss, S. 1999. Draft guidelines for the Application of IUCN Red List Criteria at National and Regional Levels. Species 31-32:58–70.

Higgins, P. J. (ed.) 1999. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 4. Parrots to Dollarbird. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Higgins, P.J. and Davies, S.J.J.F. (eds.) 1996. The Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 3. Snipe – Pigeons. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

IUCN. 1994. IUCN Red List Categories. IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland, Switzerland.

Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (eds.) 1990. The Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 1. Ratites-Ducks. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (eds.) 1993. The Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 2. Raptors -Lapwings. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Maxwell, S., Burbidge, A. A. and Morris, K. eds. 1996. The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Norman, J.A., Christidis, L., Westerman, M. and Hill, F.A.R. 1998. Molecular data confirms the species status of the Christmas Island Hawk-Owl Ninox natalis. Emu 98:197–208.

Regan, H. M. Colyvan, M. and Burgman, M. A. 2000. A proposal for fuzzy International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categories and criteria. Biol. Conserv. 92:101–108.

Robertson, C. J. R. and Nunn, G. B. 1998. Towards a new taxonomy for albatrosses. pp. 13–19 in The Albatross: Biology and Conservation. G. Robertson and R. Gales (eds). Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton.

Schodde, R. and Mason, I.J. 1997. Aves (Columbidae to Coraciidae). In Houston, W.W.K. and Wells, A. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 37.2. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.

Schodde, R. and Mason, I. J. 1999. The Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines. CSIRO, Collingwood, Victoria.

Stanger, M., Clayton, M., Schodde, R., Wombey, J. and Mason, I. 1998. CSIRO List of Australian Vertebrates. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.

Thackway, R. and Cresswell, I. D. (eds.) 1995. An Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia: a frameword for establishing the national system of reserves, Version 4.0. Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra.