This is the fifth 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. 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. The list covers only those species where a significant change has been noted over the intervening period. 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; Part 4 (pigeons to nightjars) can be found here.
Albert's Lyrebird. Described as “moderately common” and localised in 1979, it is perhaps better regarded as uncommon today. Its distribution remains unchanged. A small, isolated population continues to hang on at Mt Tamborine against expectations. The bird is otherwise restricted to the upland rainforests of the McPherson and Great Dividing ranges. I commented in 1979 that there was “considerable evidence” suggesting the species once occurred in the Blackall Range in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. There is today a good deal more scepticism about that evidence. With extensive areas of suitable habitat remaining, especially in the adjoining Conondale Range, it is difficult to accept that the species would not still be present, had it occurred in the region historically.
White-backed Swallow. This bird was “uncommon” in 1979 but known to nest annually in several places, including along the Brisbane River. Today it could better be described as a rare visitor; it no longer nests at sites it had been using for many years.
Bassian Thrush & Russet-tailed Thrush. In 1979 these birds were not recognised as separate species. Bassian Thrush is an uncommon resident in rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest in the higher parts of the McPherson and Great Dividing ranges. Russet-tailed Thrush is a common resident of rainforest throughout the region but is absent from the higher parts of the McPherson and Great Dividing ranges; it undertakes some movement to lowland scrubs in winter. There is a narrow band of overlap between the two species. Reports of Bassian Thrush from Mt Glorious in the D'Aguilar Range are contested.
Hooded Robin. Described as “uncommon” in 1979 and known from several scattered areas throughout the region. It appears to have declined, probably due to destruction of its open woodland habitat, and today could be considered rare in SEQ except in the Granite Belt, where it is uncommon.
Olive Whistler. This species in 1979 was “rare” and confined to the highest parts of the McPherson Range. That continues to be the case but it clearly has declined along with several other species that reach their northern distributional limit in South-East Queensland. While always scarce, Olive Whistler would once be found reliably during a visit, for instance, to Mt Bithongabel. That's not the case anymore; years have gone by without a sighting. While the bird has been recorded in recent months, its numbers must be perilously low.
White-eared Monarch. In 1979 it was considered “uncommon to rare”. We now know it to be more numerous than was thought previously. It can be described as moderately common to uncommon, primarily in lowland rainforest and vine scrub.
Satin Flycatcher. In 1979 it was described as an “uncommon” summer visitor. The species in fact occurs in the region as a scarce transitional visitor during its annual migration to and from the south-eastern states.
Shining Flycatcher. It was thought to be “rare” in 1979, with sightings from the Noosa River, Bribie Island and Fraser Island. It is known now to be a moderately common to uncommon resident in mangroves as far south of Pumicestone Passage. It is a scarce visitor south of Bribie Island. It may be one of several northern species to have extended its range southwards.
Spotted Quail-thrush. This species was described as “uncommon” in 1979. It is perhaps better considered rare these days. While it continues to occupy sites near Brisbane where it occurred 40 years ago, it has inexplicably vanished from other places, especially around the Sunshine Coast and hinterland.
Grey-crowned Babbler. Thought to be “moderately common” in 1979, this is another species that has suffered a population decline, probably due to destruction of its open woodland habitat. It could be regarded today generally as uncommon; it no longer occurs in many of its former haunts.
Superb Fairy-wren. Considered in 1979 to be “moderately common”, occurring as far north as Eidsvold. The species has increased in urban areas around Brisbane and the Gold Coast, where it is common. While the bird occurs throughout western parts of the region north of Brisbane, it is oddly absent from the coast and hinterland north of the city.
Southern Emu-wren. In 1979 it was “rare” and known only from the coastal heaths of the Noosa Plain, Cooloola. That hasn't changed. What has changed is that the birds are no longer threatened with plans to destroy the heath for pine plantations, as was the case in 1979; its habitat is now World Heritage-listed national park. Notwithstanding the presence of plenty of suitable habitat, the bird has not been recorded elsewhere in South-East Queensland. A distance of about 400km separates the Cooloola birds from the nearest population to the south, at Evans Head in NSW.