Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Update from Colin O'Donnell- on bittern from DOC's work

Progress with developing monitoring techniques for cryptic swamp birds (bittern, fernbirds and rails)
The Department of Conservation has begun developing monitoring methods for swamp birds over the last year. We require robust methods to map distribution, identify critical habitats and monitor response of swamp birds to wetland management. Methods need to be sensitive enough to detect significant population changes within relatively short timeframes so that management can be adaptive. So far we have developed a national database for Australasian bittern, reviewed impacts of introduced mammalian predators on wetland birds and trialled automatic bird call recorders for recording bittern. Bittern usually call at night, with peaks at dawn and dusk and live in some deep swamps, so they are challenging to monitor using conventional means - so using auto recorders for inventory and/or monitoring is a promising possibility. In field trials at Whangamarino wetland in the Waikato region the recorders were excellent at recording bittern calls (up to 50 boom trains per 15 minutes) , with the recorders generally performing as well as human observers in our initial trials. Work is continuing on identifying the best time of year and night to monitor numbers and designing the sampling methods needed.

Contact: Colin O’Donnell (


Dr Colin O'Donnell
Ecosystems and Species Unit
Research and Development Group
Department of Conservation — Te Papa Atawhai
VPN: 254985 | M: +64 276602476

Conservation for prosperity Tiakina te taiao, kia puawai

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