CIE Spotlight: If waterbirds are nocturnal are we conserving the right habitats?

Raoul R. and Andy B.
Raoul R. and Andy B.

Authors: Austin, V. I.; Ribot, R. F. H.; Bennett, A. T. D.

Source: EMU, 116 (4):423-427, 2016

Brief summary of the paper: Waterbirds are key indicators of wetland health and recent declines in their abundance have renewed focus on conservation of their habitats in Australia. Yet conservation efforts have mostly ignored the identification of habitats used at night.

In this study we assessed three common species, Grey Teal (Anas gracilis), Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea) and Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta chubata), during day and night. Thermal imaging technologies were utilised to identify individuals to species, count abundances and observe habitat requirements.

We found major differences in abundance between night and day of all three species at our study sites. Further, habitat use of teals differed between nocturnal and diurnal hours, with birds aggregating on the bank during daylight hours and moving onto the water during the night.

Our findings suggest that nocturnal waterbird surveys can assist conservation efforts. By monitoring bird numbers by night, the significance of a habitat for feeding and shelter purposes can be determined. Additionally, by studying nocturnal behaviour and habitat use, identification and conservation of important wetlands will be increased.