Australasian Bitterns are in endangered species in parts of Australia but with the help of a solar powered GPS scientists hope they can learn more about these threatened birds.
A male Bittern by the name of Bushy has been the first to be fitted with the solar powered GPS and was released into a remote South-West Australian bushland a few days ago. The aim of the GPS according to Parks and Wildlife Services, Western Australia is to keep track of his location but also record a multitude of other data.
“The transmitter records environmental variables like temperature, humidity and light intensity, and data that can be used to understand flight characteristics such as velocity and acceleration” the Facebook post stated.
“[This] information [is] vital for the long-term survival of Bittern and other wetland fauna.”
BirdLife Australia started the Bittern Project in 2007 to get the Bittern listed on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conversation (EPBC) list as endangered which was successful. They hope the GPS tracker will be able to deliver plenty of information as Bitterns are difficult to record due to their habitat.
“Australasian Bitterns specialise in living in dense beds of reeds and rushes, where they are surprisingly difficult to see, as they are particularly well camouflaged,”
“Added to this, when alarmed, they stand still with neck stretched upwards and bill pointing skywards,”
“Sometimes they even sway in the breeze, in time with the surrounding reeds,”
“This combination makes them blend in remarkably well with the surrounding vegetation [and] it is hardly surprising that the species is seldom recorded.”
According to the NSW Government only 2,500 Bitterns are present around Australia with Birdlife International stating that this number may be lower with approximately 1000 matured Bitterns in Australia. Low levels such as these can be attributed to several threats both ecological and man-made.
The office of Environment and Heritage of the NSW Government states that drainage of wetlands and ponds, reduced water quality due to pollution and predation by foxes, pigs and cats are factors in the endangerment of the species. Also serving as a threat are chemicals including herbicides, burning of wetlands and increased seasonal rainfall that is driven by climate change.