Bitterns boom in rice

5 Dec 2012 11:36 AM - Study producing exciting results

Gas guns are not the only thing booming in the rice this summer. A pioneering study aimed at learning more about the endangered Australasian Bittern and its use of rice is already producing some exciting results.

The Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA) and Birdlife Australia have teamed up with local organisations to answer some of the key questions that might help this poorly known bird, renowned for being the source of bunyip legends. 

Wildlife ecologist Matt Herring, who is working with interested rice growers throughout the season, said that he and others involved in the project were thrilled to confirm the presence of 20 bitterns using rice in the first week of the study.

“The surveys have only just begun and our coverage so far is very limited, but the early results suggest that rice might support several hundred of these endangered birds”.

“It is critical that we get a larger sample of farms though, so we’re encouraging as many rice growers as possible to look and listen for the birds, and report their sightings”.

RGA Environmental Champions Program Coordinator Neil Bull said “we are off to a great start however  with the crops growing quickly we are likely to only get a glimpse of this elusive bird so we now need to focus our ears on the booming call”

Coleambally rice grower Ian Payne is passionate about bitterns and has already found them in several of his rice crops this season.

“The rice seems to provide perfect habitat for bitterns and I think everyone can benefit from learning more about the preservation of this magnificent bird”.

Sightings can be reported via the Birdlife Australia website, where there is a special bitterns in rice survey form, or 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).

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