AWC's annual finch census underway at Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary

AWC's annual finch census underway at Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary
Mornington-Marion Downs
Field Programs
Feral herbivore control | Fire management | Feral cat and fox control | Science: surveys and research
Gouldian Finch

AWC’s annual finch census is underway with eight AWC field staff and 20 skilled volunteers spending two hours each sunrise, for five consecutive days counting and recording the number and variety of birds coming down to drink at over 80km of central Kimberley waterways, within AWC’s Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary.

September 2016: In its 11th year, the ‘finch census’ which includes all seed-eating birds; finches, parrots, pigeons, doves, and quail, is part of the long-term ecological health monitoring program at the sanctuary.

This year large numbers of painted finches have been recorded, possibly due to dry conditions inland, along with the endangered and much admired Gouldian Finch. Approximately 800 Pictorella Mannikans were recorded in one morning.

Long-tailed finch. 

Water availability is the main predictor of how many birds are seen during the survey period. If there is low rainfall we see a greater congregation of birds in areas where water resides. Another factor is seed availability, which can be impacted by rainfall and fire.

The birds forming part of the survey rely heavily on the availability of grass seed for food and the distribution of ground cover. They are declining across much of northern Australia because they are susceptible to threats like overgrazing and frequent, intense fire. The abundance of this group of birds acts as an indicator of wider ecological processes and the success of AWC’s land management activities such as feral animal and fire control.