All posts by bird-nerd

Wildlife expert Nick Mooney says eagle windfarm deaths higher than reported

ABC Radio Hobart By Georgie Burgess

Wildlife biologist Nick Mooney says it is not known how many eagles are killed by windfarms.
Supplied: Birdlife Tasmania

A wildlife expert has called for independent monitoring and studies into eagle deaths caused by windfarms, warning the problem is only going to get worse as the industry expands in Tasmania.

Under Commonwealth legislation, windfarm companies agree to “offsets” when an endangered bird is killed. Offsets include the companies paying compensation, funding research or the protection of nest sites.

“A lot of people call it blood money — it’s compensation for killing endangered species,” wildlife biologist Nick Mooney told Leon Compton on ABC Radio Hobart.

Musselroe Wind Farm, Tasmania’s largest, has reported 11 wedge-tail eagle deaths and one white-bellied sea eagle death since it was constructed in 2013. Mr Mooney believes the mortality rate is higher.

“We don’t know how many are killed, there is no proper study,” he said.

It is estimated there are less than 350 breeding pairs of the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tail eagles, and in 2017–18, 29 were killed by powerlines. Mr Mooney has raised concerns with how offsets are decided and set, and said they are based on modelling and projections rather than real data.

“It’s almost a nonsense to be setting offsets on speculation,” he said.

he Musselroe Windfarm, owned by Woolnorth, offsets deaths through funding the protection of wedge-tail eagle nests on private land.

“The trouble is, the assumption is that will increase production of eagle chicks to compensate for deaths,” Mr Mooney said.

“But you need about 12 extra eagle chicks to compensate for every adult eagle killed at a windfarm.

“There’s no evidence the covenanting process has increased production at all.”

A spokeswoman for Woolnorth said protecting eagles was “extremely important” to the company.

“There are very few eagle collisions at our wind farms and they in no way threaten the bird’s sustainability,” she said. “Woolnorth is trialling a number of mitigation projects and will continue to offset eagle impacts that occur at its wind farms, in addition to continuing to work with state and Commonwealth regulators to manage the impact on eagles.”

There were no eagle deaths reported at its Studland Bluff and Bluff Point windfarms between 2016 and 2018.

Mr Mooney said while there is no suggestion companies are hiding bird deaths, the system of reporting was a potential conflict of interest.

“The amount of offsets you pay is related to the number of eagles you’re found to be killing,” he said.

He said searches for dead or injured birds were often underneath and near turbines, meaning some may not be found and reported.

“Anything with wings is going to wobble off.”

Mr Mooney said real data needed to be collected, and a proper study of eagle populations around windfarms was needed.

“It’s inexcusable not to have eagles with GPS packages on them to find out how many were killed,” he said.

The Cattle Hill Windfarm, which is still under construction, has committed to trailing new technology to prevent eagles being kill in turbines. It will install monitoring towers to identify when an eagle is in the flight path of a turbine and shut it down.

A spokesperson for the Environment Department said the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act set out the requirements for offset proposals and used the most recent available scientific literature.

Animal lovers chasing glimpse of rare species fuel tourism boom but can create headaches

ABC Kimberley By Erin Parke

Discoveries of rare and endangered animals in Australia’s remote deserts have prompted mini tourism booms, but they are also causing some headaches for local Aboriginal rangers and their conservation efforts.

Bird obsessives, known as twitchers, have descended on remote sites in the wake of rare parrot sightings, such as the rediscovery of the princess parrot by rangers in 2012 in the Northern Territory.

“The scientists got really happy because it was the first one around that area, followed by all the birdwatchers,” said Anangu Luritjiku ranger Terrence Abbott.

“They wanted more details, so we tried to make it sort of secret at first because we didn’t want everyone arriving on a big bus.”

But the location soon leaked and lit up birdwatching chat pages online — and the twitchers started to arrive.

“We’ve got a permit system out there, but these ones here were illegal visitors without a permit.”

“When we went out there to patrol the area, we saw one tourist with a ladder on the top of his car, so we went and had a chat with him,” Mr Abbott said.

It’s a growing issue in areas where local Aboriginal rangers are making regular scientific breakthroughs, documenting the presence of animals thought to be extinct or only found in small geographical pockets.

The discoveries often come on Aboriginal-owned land where visitors — campers, fishermen or animal enthusiasts — require a permit to enter, something the rangers said many tourists did not realise.

The number of permit systems is growing in outback Australia; there are six in the Kimberley region of Western Australia alone, with most costing less than $50, including camping.

Bird-related tourism boom

Animal-inspired spike in tourism have helped fund ranger work and create local jobs.

After the night parrot — so rare it’s been referred to as the million-dollar bird — was photographed in the Great Sandy Desert in 2017, the number of visitor permits sold jumped 80 per cent.

Paruku head ranger Jamie Brown said they kept the news quiet for awhile to make sure the birds were protected.

“We were really worried because we didn’t want a big impact of lots of people coming in, and we didn’t know how to manage all of them as well as the bird,” he said.

“These twitchers, they love all sorts of birds, and this is a really rare one, so we could have a big run of people if we’d put it out straight away.”

“Most people who visit here do the right thing, they get their permit and they are respectful.

“Being a ranger is really good — it’s not just about the animals, we are getting more young people in to work with us and get out on country and learn from the old people.”

BirdLife calls for Urgent High-level Support for African Vultures

Vulture populations are in many cases poisoned when eating large animal carcasses (like the one above) that have been poisoned. © BirdLife Botswana

By BirdLife Botswana

BirdLife International is unequivocally condemning the recent poisoning of 537 highly endangered vultures by elephant poachers in the Central District of Botswana. This devastating incident has resulted in the country’s highest recorded death toll of vultures associated with a single poisoning incident and is one of the worst killings of vultures on the continent, rivaling a similar incident in the Caprivi area of Namibia in 2013, where between 400-600 vultures were killed.

Although the Botswana government appears to be stepping up its anti-poaching initiatives, catastrophic vulture mortality continues to occur because of poisoning by poachers. Poachers poison vultures to stop them circling above carcasses — thus signaling their illegal activity. Targeted and non-targeted poisoning of vultures is escalating at an alarming rate across the continent, with a high number of incidents focused on southern Africa.

These incidences are devastating,” says Motshereganyi Virat Kootsositse, BirdLife Botswana’s Executive Director. “Agrochemicals used illegally to poison vultures should be banned, and the use of safer alternatives encouraged. Although legislation is in place to manage agrochemicals in Botswana, enforcement is lacking, resulting in widespread misuse. The government should up its efforts to revise and enforce legislation and increase public awareness of the use of hazardous chemicals.”

Vultures are invaluable as a species due to the incredible public health services they provide. By eating rotting carcasses, they prevent the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis, rabies and anthrax. BirdLife Botswana works tirelessly to tackle vulture poisoning in the country. In collaboration with other BirdLife partners and organisations in the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) region, they are working to address increasing elephant poaching; the main threat to the region’s declining vulture populations. Improving cross border collaboration, enforcement and building capacity for wildlife crime prosecution and improving the availability of information are crucial to these efforts.

However, illegal poisoning is something that community support systems, education and awareness alone may not be able to combat. The government needs to use legislative action to help save vultures and wildlife in Botswana, and across the KAZA region.

“If such catastrophic episodes continue to occur across Africa, we may lose the race to save these iconic and vitally important species,” says Beckie Garbett from the BirdLife International Africa Partnership Secretariat. “Vultures are currently not receiving the global conservation support and recognition that many other highly threatened species are, which puts them on a back foot in terms of conservation organisations having the capacity to halt and reverse their declines.”

BirdLife International calls upon the Botswana government and other key influential stakeholders to pay attention to the desperate plight of African vultures at relevant international policy forums. With the 18th CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP) meeting due to take place in August this year, international Governments of CITES member states have the opportunity to pass relevant policy decisions that will help to address the plight of vultures and other wildlife species.

Only through high-level driven actions will African vultures get the attention and protection that they deserve from sentinel poisoning. It is the duty of those with the power to make a change, to stand up and make themselves heard on behalf of all wildlife species impacted by illegal activities in Africa.

Very excited to have a photo included in this international forum earlier this year.

Karen Hunt

(You have to scroll down a bit.)


This was one of those right time, right place shots when the photo gods smiled and everything was just right.

It does happen!

Photographed just outside Geraldton WA

Bird spotted feeding chick cigarette butt in ‘devastating’ picture

“The Independent” Jane Dalton

The photograph of the bird trying to feed its chick on a cigarette butt was described as heartbreaking ( Karen Mason/Facebook )

A parent bird has been spotted feeding its chick a cigarette butt, highlighting environmental concerns and prompting a wave of anger at careless smokers.

The black skimmer bird was photographed at a beach in Florida, US, picking the butt up and putting it in the baby’s mouth.

Karen Mason, who took the photographs, issued a simple plea as she posted the pictures online: “If you smoke, please don’t leave your butts behind.”

She added: “It’s time we cleaned up our beaches and stopped treating them like one giant ash tray. #nobuttsforbabies.”

Commenters endorsed her plea, saying the sight was “heartbreaking and devastating”. 

Susan Nagi wrote: “The baby chick needs to become a poster child for change.”

“People are disgusting!” wrote Josee Noel. “They don’t want their butts, as if we do! Time to ban them, everywhere! What about our rights? Nature’s? Toxicity off the charts!”

Ms Mason, known online as Karen Catbird, was inundated with requests from the world’s media to reproduce her photos. “Whatever helps to get people to think before they toss,” she said.

She explained that the birds feed by skimming along the water with their beaks open. “They don’t see what they are getting. This parent must have latched on to a butt in the shallow water,” she wrote.

“People won’t go anywhere without a way to carry their cell phone but they apparently don’t want to be bothered with carrying something small enough for their butts.”

Liette Ricard pointed out discarding butts does not just hurt animals and environments, it can start forest fires too.

Hilarious photo shows a magpie taking VERY keen interest in a game of Scrabble

The moment a magpie appeared to be taking a keen interest in a game of Scrabble has been captured on camera.

The bird was spotted sitting next to a Scrabble dictionary and game board on a patio table.

The picture was taken outside an Australian home on Saturday afternoon.

The bird’s picture was posted to Reddit, where it attracted attention of hundreds.

‘He’s missing that triple word score,’ one person said. 

‘Well read birds. The mag in magpie stands for magazine after all,’ a second person said.

‘Magpies seem like the type to have the dictionary sitting next to them throughout the game,’ said a third person said. 

‘Magpies are so smart and seem to have a sense of humour and I really like them,’ yet another wrote.