Grey-crowned Babblers in southeast Queensland, 2009

A project of Birds Queensland

During 2009 Birds Queensland undertook this project to establish the present status of Grey-crowned Babblers in southeast Queensland, and to compare this with their previous distribution.

Eastern Grey-crowned Babblers, Pomatostomus temporalis temporalis, have been recognized as

  • extinct in South Australia,
  • endangered in Victoria, and
  • threatened in New South Wales.

This decline in the Babbler population appears to be gradually moving north. In southern Queensland, while perhaps Babblers are holding-on west of the Great Dividing Range, they may be declining in the south-east, but we don’t know their exact status and how it has changed.

BQ members and others were asked to search for Babblers, count them, record all sightings, and report them.

The study area is east of the Great Dividing Range, that is, roughly east of Toowoomba and Crow’s Nest, and north to roughly Gympie. Sightings were then reported to the Birds Australia Continuing Atlas for mapping (and any other GIS work) at no cost to Birds Queensland.

What did we find out from the survey?

graphic - Grey-crowned Babbler
Grey-crowned Babbler  © T Oliver
(click on image for a version at 130KB jpg)

During the survey we received well over 200 reports of more than 140 groups. Most groups were reported from the Lockyer, Boonah, Logan and Caboolture areas. Very few reports came from the Helidon, Kilcoy or Toogoolawah areas, and almost none from the Gold Coast and hinterland. Obviously they have declined or gone from areas round the big cities which are now covered by industry or houses.

There were very few confirmed reports of breeding. Many people remarked that their groups were smaller than in the past, or isolated from others.

Our survey showed that Babblers and people can live together. They do especially well on golf courses and around country schools. They like lawns and slashed grass as long as there is also suitable ground with leaf litter, fallen bark, old rotting logs and branches, garden mulch (eg sugar cane mulch) – ground cover harbouring invertebrates. They may use water for drinking and bathing, and they take dust baths. They are vulnerable on roads, and probably also to cats.

I believe it is true to say that Grey-crowned Babblers in south-east Queensland are holding on, we do not need to panic, but we do need to be very watchful!

What next?

Unfortunately because of differences in method it is difficult to compare the survey results with the Atlas. It will have to be a new baseline, and we will repeat the survey in the future.

But we are still very interested in receiving reports to monitor what is going on.

Also it was obvious after the survey that the drought had had a serious effect on Babblers. Once the drought had broken, we received many more reports of successful breeding. (Young birds have dark eyes, mature birds have pale eyes; during the survey it was unusual to see a dark-eyed bird.) Also new groups have formed, also suggesting successful breeding. So we hope our next survey will be in a more “normal” season!

How can you contribute?

It is helpful if you go on reporting the Babblers you see – yours may be a new group!

If you’re an Atlasser:
When you encounter Grey-crowned Babblers on your normal Atlas surveys, please count them and include the number in your survey. One-off sightings should be reported as Incidental Atlas records, including the number of birds in the group. Submit these to the Atlas as usual.

If you’re not an Atlasser, please report on eBird and, in particular, try to record the following information:

  • the date,
  • the exact location (including latitude and longitude, using a GPS if possible),
  • the number of birds, and
  • anything else you think is interesting or likely to be relevant (e.g. are they nesting? feeding young out of the nest? can you see them well enough to see if they have dark or pale eyes?).

For any other questions please use the "contact us" link at the bottom of the page.

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Monitoring Grey-crowned Babblers is easy (everyone can identify Babblers and you can do it as part of normal birdwatching), enjoyable (everyone likes them), and obviously worthwhile – it would be terrible to lose such an iconic bird.

Margaret Cameron
18 January 2012


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