Bitten by the Bittern bug

19 Nov 2012 5:13 PM - Rice growers do their bit

This summer, rice growers across the Riverina are being urged to keep their eyes and ears peeled for the endangered Australasian Bittern. The Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA), Birdlife Australia and other local organisations have teamed up to learn more about this secretive bird that is thought to have given rise to the bunyip legends.  

Over the course of the growing season, wildlife ecologist Matt Herring will be working with interested rice farmers on a groundbreaking project to help protect the Australasian Bittern.

“We've known for years that rice crops are important for this species, but we're keen to find out just how important they are and how we can manage rice farms to benefit these birds”.

“We'd like to get a good idea of the actual number of birds using rice crops, how they use them and how they're distributed through the Murrumbidgee, Coleambally and Murray irrigation areas”, said Mr Herring.

Ricegrowers’ Association Environmental Champions Program co-ordinator Neil Bull urged rice growers to get involved.

“We’ve heard of lots of Bittern sightings in rice crops and we suspect that also they provide an important breeding habitat. Through this project, we’d like to be able to properly demonstrate just how vital Riverina rice crops are as a habitat for the Australasian Bittern.”

“To do this, we need our farming community to understand what the Bittern looks and sounds like”.

Mr Herring said, “the more people we have out there looking, the more we're likely to learn about them and the more we'll be able to do to help build their numbers back up”.

A series of field days are being held in the Griffith, Leeton and Coleambally areas to familiarise people with this intriguing waterbird and to increase the number of people searching for it.

Coleambally, 27 November

  • 6.00pm BBQ at Lions Park, Coleambally
  • 8.00pm Depart on bus for sighting trip
  • RSVP Mark Robb 6954 4003

Leeton, 29 November

  • 6.00pm BBQ at Yanco Ag Institute (NSWDPI) swimming pool area
  • 8.00pm Depart on bus for sighting trip
  • RSVP Daryl Gibbs 0429 982 507

Griffith, 30 November

  • 5.30pm Meet at Griffith Tourist Information Centre
  • 6.00pm Depart on bus for BBQ at Barren Box Swamp
  • 8.00pm Sightings at Barren Box Swamp
  • RSVP Karen McCann 0428 660 866

Please CLICK HERE to view flyer on Bittern field days

 To view Bittern Identification flyer please click here.

For more information or to report a record of the Australasian Bittern, please contact Neil Bull at RGA (0428 603 557), neil.bull@murrayirrigation.com.au) or Andrew Silcocks at Birdlife Australia (03 9347 0757) andrew.silcocks@birdlife.org.au).