Bird watchers wanted

NORTH Coast residents can help scientists learn more about the endangered pied oystercatcher, and all you need is a pair of binoculars.

These rare birds are known to breed in this region, particularly at South Ballina and in the Bundjalung National Park near Evans Head.

The Federal Department of Environment has a bird-banding scheme, which aims to gather details of the life history of banded birds.

Bob Moffatt has been monitoring the pied oystercatcher since 1997, initially as a National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger, then as an environmental consultant since 2004.

“The more biological information that we have, the better the local population and its threats can be managed,” he said.

“By flagging the birds, we can learn more about the age they start breeding, their fidelity to their mates and their nest sites. It will also tell us a bit about the threats to the bird.”

Presently there are only five pairs of the pied oystercatcher between Patchs Beach and South Ballina Beach. But only two of those pairs are currently breeding so far this year.

Under the Federal Government bird-banding program, Mr Moffatt is helping to band oystercatchers and wants locals and visitors to report any sightings.

“With the aid of binoculars, the flag code (usually a letter and a number) is relatively easy to read,” he said.

“This ease of identification of individual birds in the future will present valuable opportunities for monitoring and research into life history aspects of the species. We will be banding and flagging young from the current season over the next couple of months.”

Of the birds flagged between 2006 and 2008, there have been reports of 18 (now more than 30) individuals at various locations, including 12 in south-east Queensland, mainly at North Stradbroke Island and Moreton Bay. One bird was seen at Urunga, another at Harrington, one at Botany Bay and one at Kurnell in Sydney.

If you notice a banded pied oystercatcher, note the following things:

  • The alpha-numeric code;
  • The flag's colour;
  • Which leg the flag is on;
  • The date you saw the bird;
  • The bird's location.

Report your sighting by emailing:

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