The world’s most extraordinary birds

25 Jun 2024

Australia is home to 800 species of some of the world’s most extraordinary birds, with 370 of those found nowhere else on earth. Yet many of these avian wonders are teetering on the brink of extinction. The Australian National University (ANU) donor community’s support of the Difficult Birds Research Group (DBRG) is helping to protect Australia’s most endangered birds.

DBRG’s key mission is to understand the threats against and prevent the extinction of ‘difficult birds’ – birds that are all extremely endangered, hard to find, live in rugged terrain and move around the landscape.

Daniel Appleby, a PhD student in DBRG, is doing great work teaching zoo-bred Regent Honeyeaters to sing like wild birds. With female Regent Honeyeaters tending to favour familiar song patterns in mate selection, there’s a risk that zoo-bred birds – which develop distinct song patterns from those observed in the wild – might unintentionally contribute to a narrowing of the breeding pool. Daniel’s work ensures the species’ genetic diversity, long-term health and adaptability. His past four years of tutoring have yielded positive results, with Daniel’s zoo-bred Regent Honeyeaters sounding increasingly like their wild counterparts. This strategy has been adopted and will continue within the breeding program.

Daniel’s new strategy is just one of the many successful efforts from DBRG throughout 2023. These include publications, fruitful field trips, monitoring and nest protection efforts. DBRG’s research continues to improve reintroduction of species into the wild, species’ population management and conservation, and protection of resources that birds are reliant on.

With the indispensable support of donors, DBRG will continue developing innovative techniques in conservation and safeguard Australia’s most ‘difficult’ endangered bird species.

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