Seminar - Disappearing small woodland birds: is removing noisy miners the answer?

The same extreme habitat modification that has caused declines in many species of small woodland birds in eastern Australia has fostered a rise in population of native noisy miners. Colonial aggression by noisy miners has further impacted small woodland birds. Aggressive exclusion of small woodland birds from potential habitat by noisy miners was declared a Key Threatening Process under the EPBC Act in 2014. Many ecologists have recommended culling of noisy miners to save threatened small woodland birds. The results of such drastic interventions in ecosystems are unpredictable, however. Compensatory responses are often reported and unexpected outcomes are common.

We carried out an experimental cull of noisy miners in eight remnant woodland patches in an agricultural landscape of the South West Slopes of NSW. We removed all noisy miners in the experimental sites but they immediately recolonised from the surrounding landscape. We removed them again and again they recolonised the vacated territory.

To test the potential of noisy miner removal to improve ecosystem function for small woodland birds, we measured  artificial nest predation rates, foraging rates and harassment rates before and up to 12 months after the cull. We found no change in artificial nest predation rates, an increase in foraging rates for some species of small woodland birds, and no change in harassment rates. We conclude that culling of noisy miners in this landscape is not an effective response to the decline of small woodland birds.

About the speaker

Richard Beggs completed an honours degree in agriculture at Aberdeen University in 1987. In 2012 Richard returned to academia to do a Masters in Environmental Management at UWA. To his surprise, he was awarded a distinction and before he had a chance to reconsider was enrolled in this PhD at ANU.