Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Changes in status of South-East Queensland Birds over 40 years – Part 4, pigeons to nightjars

Marbled Frogmouth

This is the fourth post demonstrating changes in the status and distribution of birds in South-East Queensland over 40 years between 1979 - when my booklet The Birds of South-East Queensland was published – and 2019. The list covers only those species where a significant change has been noted over the intervening period. Some changes are doubtlessly influenced by an increased number of observers and technological advances (especially with playback) but many can not be explained by these factors. See here for Part 1 (emu to storm-petrels) and here for Part 2 (boobies to hawks); Part 3 (brush-turkey to terns) is here.

Superb Fruit-Dove
Superb Fruit-Dove. Thought to be “rare” in 1979 and recorded from just five sites, it continues to be considered scarce but is known now to be a summer visitor. It is recorded from several other localities, especially around the Sunshine Coast where it is a regular visitor in small numbers.

White-headed Pigeon
White-headed Pigeon. Considered “uncommon” in 1979, it could now be described as moderately common generally and common locally. It seems to have benefited from an abundance of introduced camphor laurel trees and has become a frequent visitor to bird feeders.

Brush Bronzewing
Brush Bronzewing. It is described as “rare, possibly vagrant” in 1979: known from two records in Cooloola and one on Fraser Island. It is now known to be a scarce resident but has not been recorded beyond these two sites (known collectively today as the Great Sandy World Heritage Area) despite an abundance of seemingly suitable habitat elsewhere.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo
Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. This species was thought to be “generally rare, though uncommon and regular in northern areas” such as Gayndah and Gin Gin. It remains uncommon in the region but is now known to occur more often further south - being resident in small numbers around Gympie, for instance, and a regular visitor to the foothills of the Conondale and Jimna ranges.

Little Corella
Little Corella. Not recorded at all by 1979, it is now a common resident throughout the region. Like Galah and Crested Pigeon, it has extended its range from the inland to the coast, although for unknown reasons it took its time.

Double-eyed (Coxen's) Fig-Parrot. In 1979 it was described as “possibly extinct” with recent reports unconfirmed. That could be downgraded to “probably extinct” today with recent records still unconfirmed. Many reports of sightings are accepted as valid by Queensland Government authorities that should know better. As I have reported elsewhere, not a single one of these records has been corroborated by follow-up sightings, a photograph, specimen or sound-recording. It is remotely possible (but unlikely in my view) that it survives in very small numbers.

Eastern Ground Parrot
Eastern Ground Parrot. Its status of “rare” remains essentially unchanged from 1979 but it is now extinct in two localities – Calounda and Beerwah – where it was present but rapidly declining at that time. It is hanging on in very small numbers at a couple of other sites on the Sunshine Coast but its stronghold remains further north in the Great Sandy World Heritage Area, especially the Noosa Plain of Cooloola. In 1979, that area was threatened by the planned expansion of introduced Pinus plantations; happily that move was repelled and the Noosa Plain is protected these days as national park.

Crimson Rosella
Crimson Rosella. This was described as “common” in 1979 in rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest. It remains common today but only locally at higher altitudes. It is today much more uncommon than previously in low-lying sites such as the foothills of the Conondale and Blackall ranges. I've suggested this is one of a number of species whose status and distribution in the region may be influenced by climate change.

Paradise Parrot. Described as “possibly extinct” in 1979, it can safely and regrettably today be deemed extinct. I reported back then that the last published observation was in 1927 in the upper Burnett. I've since reported that the last authentic sighting was in fact by Eric Zillmann in 1938 in the Gin Gin area of the Burnett Valley.

Channel-billed Cuckoo
Channel-billed Cuckoo. It was considered “moderately common” as a summer visitor in 1979 but can fairly be regarded as common today; its numbers have clearly increased.

Powerful Owl
Powerful Owl. The species was thought to be “rare” in 1979, recorded from heavily forested areas and streamside thickets. It continues to be regarded as scarce but is now known to be resident in small numbers in the suburbs of Brisbane, where it had previously not been recorded.

Southern Boobook
Southern Boobook. This was “common” in 1979 and while these days it is not uncommon, there is little doubt that numbers are substantially reduced. This may be due to rodenticides, which have impacted populations elsewhere.

Masked Owl
Masked Owl. It was considered “rare” in 1979 in open forest and lightly-wooded country. While it frequents woodland in areas such as the Brisbane Valley, we now know that its favoured haunts are the wet sclerophyll and tall open forests of the region's mountain ranges, where it is uncommon.

Marbled Frogmouth. In 1979 it was thought to be “rare” in the rainforests of the Conondale Range. This was relatively not long after I rediscovered the plumiferus race of the species in the Conondale Range in 1976. It can best be described as uncommon today though moderately common in suitable habitat. It is known also from various sites extending from the McPherson Range in the south to Cooloola in the north.

Large-tailed Nightjar. It was also considered “rare” in 1979 and confined to northern areas – Gin Gin, Bundaberg and “probably” Fraser Island. It continues to be regarded as scarce but is known to occur further south to Rainbow Beach, Cooloola and more recently, the Sunshine Coast.

Large-tailed Nightjar