The 40-spotted pardalote’s instinct to feather its own nest is the key to a plan being hatched by canny scientists hoping to stop one of Australia’s rarest birds from disappearing forever.
Once common across its native home in Tasmania’s white gum forests, the pardalote has become endangered through habitat loss. It clings onto a sliver of its former range in Flinders, Maria and Bruny islands.
A clutch of pardolote chicks easily fit into human hands. Credit:Fernanda Alves.
Its fight for survival has become even more critical in recent years as a gruesome blood-sucking parasite has begun to kill more than 90 per cent of newborn chicks.
But scientists are helping the species fight back by tapping into its instinct to collect feathers from the forest for nesting material.
Australian National University researcher Fernanda Alves, from the Fenner School of Environment and Society, uses chicken feathers treated with insecticide to fumigate the pardalotes’ nests and kill the parasitic larvae of a native fly.