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Finella Dawlings

Honours Student

Breeding ecology and causes of nest failure in Norfolk Island bush birds

Finella commences her honours in 2017 investigating the breeding ecology and nesting threats to Norfolk Island bush birds, focusing on the Endangered Norfolk Island Robin. This species is endemic to Norfolk Island and has the smallest breeding distribution of any Australianbirds species, yet little is known of the threats to its breeding success. She will use camera traps to determine nest success rates and threats to nesting success of the NI Robin. She also aims to trial predator exclusion techniques at known nesting sites, as feral cats and introduced Black Rats are believed to threaten the breeding success of the robin. Time permitting, preliminary observations will be made concerning the breeding ecology of the Slender-billed White-eye, Norfolk Island Gerygone and Norfolk Island Whistler such that this study may be expanded to include these species in the future.

Previously, Finella undertook an undergraduate research project supervised by Rohan Clarke. She performed a dynamic factor analysis on a 38-year dataset of 41 seabird species to describe the trajectory of seabird populations in the Bonney Upwelling. The Bonney Upwelling in south-eastern Australia is exposed to numerous anthropogenic threats. As such, understanding the ecosystem is crucial for its future conservation management and continuation of its fisheries. Strong seasonal population fluctuations were identified in the study, indicative of the upwelling's seasonality. Strong El Niño events lead to the reduction of eight species' populations and an increase in 21 species' populations. The strong seasonal pattern in seabird fluctuations and the influence of El Niño events had not previously been demonstrated in this system. 

 

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