Birdsong loss would echo silence in the forests

15 Mar 2018

15 March 2018

Eastern bristlebird
Eastern bristlebird

South-East Queensland is in danger of losing one of the last remaining populations of the Eastern bristlebird, one of Australia’s most melodic songbirds, a study has shown.

University of Queensland researchers working to save the critically endangered species said the isolated northern-most population had declined to fewer than 40 birds.

UQ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD researcher Zoe Stone said most people were unaware the small brown birds were close to extinction.

Zoe Stone at Spicers Gap“Only three Eastern bristlebird populations remain in eastern Australia, and the smallest by far is in the forests along the Border Ranges of south-east Queensland and adjacent northern New South Wales,” Ms Stone said.

“These shy birds are threatened by inappropriate fire regimes and changes to habitat.

“They need grassy forest patches within the wet forest, but weeds and lack of burning mean those patches are disappearing.”

Ms Stone said reintroducing threatened species was a critical tool for their conservation, but success depended on knowing how to restore the habitat the birds needed.

“Bristlebirds are more likely to occur in large patches of grassy, eucalypt forest, but they also care about grass structure,” she said.

“For a largely ground-dwelling species, the presence of tall, thick grasses provides important shelter for foraging and nesting activities.Mt Hutley

“Use of appropriate fire regimens is absolutely critical for the continued persistence and successful reintroduction of this extremely rare bird.”

The study is published in Emu – Australian Ornithology (doi: 10.1080/01584197.2018.1425628). 

The Eastern bristlebird song can be heard here.

Sound credit: Oliver, JL (2016) Bristle Whistle Project. Audio recordings collected from Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Currumbin, Australia. Retrieved 08 March 2018, available from Ecosounds:

Media:  Zoe Stone, 0415 984 051, 07 334 61651: Associate Professor Martine Maron,, +61 7 336 53836.