Friday, 3 November 2017

Reintroduced marsupials may pose new threat to ground–dwelling birds

October 24, 2017

Native marsupials reintroduced in south-western Australia are a threat to ground-dwelling birds, a University of Queensland study has found.

Researcher Graham Fulton said ground-nesting and ground-dwelling birds had generally declined at a greater rate than other Australian bird groups, with the loss of eggs believed to be an important factor.

"We don't know a lot about the identity of ground-nest predators," he said.

Mr Fulton, a PhD student in the UQ School of Biological Sciences, said his research at Dryandra, south-east of Perth, highlighted the need for a greater understanding of the impacts of reintroducing native marsupials.

"Marsupials are not generally regarded as potential nest-predators of these birds, partly because the biology of rare Australian marsupials is not fully understood due to their rarity," he said.

The study found that three marsupials – boodie and woylie bettongs (Australian rat kangaroos) and brushtail possums (pictured right and left) – took eggs from artificial nests similar to those of the threatened painted button quail (pictured below right).

"Approximately one-third of the eggs were taken by the two bettongs and another third by brushtail possums," Mr Fulton said.

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