BIRDS OF THE ILLAWARRA ESCARPMENT
Many thanks to Darryl Goldrick for supplying the text for this section, and to Charles Dove for the photos.
The complex flora of the Illawarra Escarpment include Subtropical, Wet Sclerophyll (Tall Eucalypt) and Warm Temperate Rainforest assemblages. These provide optimum habitat for a wide range of native bird species.
Whilst the Illawarra supports one of the five major areas of rainforest in NSW, only 3,400 ha remain compared to an estimated 23,000 ha at the time of European settlement.
Early logging operations, bushfires and urbanisation-related activities have all contributed to the loss of rainforest habitat and subsequent flora-fauna diversity since that time.
Photo: Spotted Pardolote
The magnitude of this habitat loss has significantly and negatively impacted on a number of rainforest-dependent bird species in respect to their population numbers and distribution. This has resulted in the extreme case with the local extinction of the Wompoo Fruit-Dove and near extinction of the Superb Fruit-Dove and Emerald Dove.
Human disturbances such as clearing, indiscriminate trail and mountain bike activity, and feral animal predation have all collectively had an adverse impact on bird roosting, nesting and feeding sites. Their intrusion into high conservation value rainforest areas has also predisposed such areas to the invasion of exotic plants, thereby rendering many areas as unsuitable habitat for a number of species.
Photo: Emerald Dove
Ground-nesting birds such as the Noisy Pitta, Australian Brush-turkey and Superb Lyrebird are prime examples, whilst ground-feeding species such as Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Wonga Pigeon and Green Catbird are similarly impacted.
Australian Brush Turkey
Consequently, there have been fewer sightings and declining numbers of the Spectacled Monarch, Pacific Emerald Dove, Greater Sooty Owl, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, White-throated Nightjar, and Barking and Masked Owls, just to name a few.
Nonetheless, despite all these human-induced habitat pressures, the diversity of bird species throughout the Escarpment forests remains high. Sustaining the high conservation status and integrity of the Escarpment’s forested vegetation is paramount to its reparation and the improvement of its biodiversity values.
The Illawarra Alliance Escarpment Alliance (EscA) is unreservedly committed to ensure that appropriate and responsible State and Local Government planning policies and environmentally sustainable land management practices are consistent with improving the existing high conservation status of the Escarpment’s flora and fauna complexes.
Photo: Pacific Baza
FIND OUT MORE
Illawarra Bird Observers Club : www.iboc.com.au
Illawarra Birders Inc: www.illawarrabirders.org
NSW Bird Atlassers: www.nswbirdatlassers.org.au
Birdlife Australia: www.birdlife.org.au (peak Australian birding organisation)
A Guide to Birdlife of the Illawarra Region of NSW by Terrill Nordstrom (2020)
A Handbook of the Birds Found in the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and adjacent Tablelands by C.J Chafer and C.C.P Brandis (2nd Ed 2012)