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May 2015

Urban Bush Stone-curlew Research Project

C u r l e w Tr a c k e r s
Greater Brisbane Curlew Count


Curlew Count

2014-2015 Breeding Season


Whats next?

In the papers

Stay in touch

Contact details

The count continues but

there is a new schedule.

This has been a long breeding season!

Foxes caught gobbling curlew eggs.

Looking for winter curlew


The curlew count will still

be run, but I have decided
to run it over two seasons,
with the first season being
used to test and refine
methods, and show a few
people how to use the
equipment. I have had
some health problems to
overcome, and it has been
temporarily necessary to
cut back my workload.
The good news is that this
will ultimately result in a
much better count.

If You Signed Up..

As I say, the count is still
on. If you are keen to contribute to the trials this
season, I will need people
to help test the equipment, test the sound
broadcast, and establish
the hearing distance under different field conditions. These trials will be
run between May and late
July. Since there will be

less field work this season,
and we will be spending
time testing methods,
there will be more scope
for me to work to the
schedules of participants.
So, I still need assistance
this season, and it would
be great if you could confirm your involvement.

Just send an email to:
reminding me of your contact details, and telling me
when you are likely to be
available to assist. For
those that need it, I can
assist with some fuel

2014-2015 Breeding Season Summary

A late nest on Macleay Island. The eggs hatched in early


The 2014-2015 breeding

season was a busy one for
curlews in southeast Queenslands urban areas. Breeding started early- in mid
August, and finished lateearly March for some pairs.
Birds in some parts of Brisbane were badly affected by
the violent summer storm
that tore out trees and

dumped golf-ball sized hail

on eggs and chicks. Some
of the pairs I had under observation lost eggs and
chicks, but within a few
days, many of the affected
pairs laid new clutches.
Based on the pairs of birds I
have been watching, it looks
as if a large proportion of
pairs in the Brisbane area

laid three clutches this season. Only two instances of

egg predation were captured by cameras both
foxes. On the basis of the
information I have collected
so for, it seems that egg
predation in urban areas
does not appear to occur

Page 2

May 2015

What are we discovering?

Can you tell whether this is a nest in

bushland? Or is it in an urban area?

Have a look what's in its beak. At two

separate locations, I have found curlews
collecting cigarette butts and using them
in the nest.

I am very keen to
find winter
flocking of
curlews. If you
know of sites
where this
happens, please
let me know!

Despite having problems

with cheap cameras and
being generally underfunded, the curlew research is living up to my
expectations. Since the
species is little studied,
there are new findings
about their natural history
and ecology. Here is a
sample! A lot of the citizen scientists keeping
breeding pairs under close
observation over prolonged periods notice that
one of the two chicks that
hatch usually disappear,
never to be seen again.
The next thing I am usually
told is that cats would
have taken them; theres a
lot around here or equally,
foxes got them, for sure.
But nobody has actually
seen either of things (or at
least told me of it). The
only predators that have
actually been seen taking
chicks are Kookaburras,

and only a couple of people have reported this.

So, I am skeptical about
the fox and cat claimsthats my job as a scientist,
so please, if I doubt claims
of fox or cat predation,
dont take it personally!
Cats and foxes could well
be taking chicks, but I
dont think this is as big a
factor in chick mortality as
has been claimed. The
truth is probably more
complex.So what do I base
this opinion on? The most
compelling evidence
comes from captive breeding programs in Victoria
where breeding birds lose
one of two chicks despite
being housed in predatorproof pens. They are kept
under video surveillance,
which shows that one
chick always seems less
capable of finding food.
Measurements of these
chicks show that the one

that succumbs usually

weighs less too. By about
the tenth day after hatching, the less robust chick
usually succumbs. In captivity, the less robust
chicks can be saved with
supplementary feeding
and care, but in the wild,
its doubtful that a
weakling would survive.
This could account for
many of the disappearances that are blamed on
cats and foxes. So why
would curlews produce
two chicks if only one will
ever survive? Perhaps we
need to start searching for
an answer to that question
by looking at other better
know birds where one
chick outcompetes another and ends up a sole
survivor. (I guess thats a
job for me.) Other birds
where this occurs are Australian Pelicans.

Whats next?
I have a lot of data to
collate from this breeding season, and I will
post some highlights,
which already look interesting. Apart from
that, the hotlines are
now open for participants in the trial work
for the survey methods
which will be run between May and late
July. Dont forget to
contact me if you are
interested. I will be
placing a few more cameras out in the field next

breeding season to
compensate for the
equipment failures this
season. I am also very
interested in hearing
about winter flocking. If
you know of sites where
this happens, I would be
very interested to hear
about them. We can
only speculate as to
where these flocking
birds come from, and
where they go when the
flocks disband. Are they
juvenile birds? Bache-

lors? Or something else?

We just dont know.

Nests only tell us part of the

curlew story. Where do they go
after breeding?

Curlew Trackers

Page 3

Project Raises Tone of Murdocx Paper

The weekend supplement to the
Courier Mail recently carried a story
on urban wildlife, part of which was
devoted to urban curlews. The
author and the photographer spent a
full day with me looking at curlews
and discussing the research.

Passers by could reach out

I also sent them off to talk to some of

the citizen scientists that participate
in the research. I was really pleased
to see that the authors did just that,
and one of the keenest volunteers,
George Chickenhawk (as you
guessed, not his real name) was able
to tell his own story and relate his
own observations of curlews. For a
tabloid newspaper not usually interested in wildlife, other than the
hackneyed cute and cuddly stories,
they did a great job.
In addition to curlews, they covered
research by Darryl Jones on Bush

and touch it. Or destroy

the eggs. The nest is no
more than a bit of leaf litter
scratched together on the
-Leisa Scott in QWEEKEND

QWEEKEND of 11-12 April 2015 featured an article on urban wildlife. A

large part of the article looked at urban curlew research .

Its worth a read.!

I am affiliated with:

Project Facebook Page

Griffith University
Environmental Futures Centre

If you have some photos or

want more to follow the
project work more closely,
have a look at the project
facebook page. If you
search on the internet for
Bush Stone Curlews you
will find it. Or go to
Its not your run of the mill
facebook page where we

post pictures of our cats

and tell everyone whos
eating muffins.

N55 Environment One

170 Kessels Road
Nathan Queensland 4111

There are a lot of observations posted there, some

interesting discussion, and
some excellent photos
with accompanying stories.
In fact, a significant number of project leads have
come from the facebook

The Bush Stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius) was once common over most of Australia. It has recently declined in most of
southern Australia, where populations are now much reduced and fragmented. In several states, recovery programs have
been implemented to reverse the decline. In the subtropics, we are lucky. The birds are still common in many areas, including some urban centres. To help conserve these birds and prevent further declines it makes sense to study them in places
where they are still common and seem to be doing well. We might gain some important insights that will make a difference
to the recovery programs, and help us prevent declines where we are lucky enough to have these birds.

Contact the project:

This newsletter keeps citizen scientists informed about the Urban Curlew Ecology project. The Project is dedicated to documenting the ecology of Bush Stone-curlews in urban areas, and applying science to the conservation of this bird. This is a
PhD project run by M. Scott OKeeffe, a student at the Environmental Futures Research Institute at Griffith University.

The newsletter keeps citizen scientists who are participating in the research informed of project schedules, and provides
some insights into the findings of the research. Contributions are welcome, but if you want to have them seen quickly, post
them on the facebook page!

Mob: 0457328442