Landholders create homes for critically endangered bird

Landholders in north central Victoria are putting legal protections on their properties to ensure a critically endangered bird has a home forever.

Landholders in north central Victoria are putting legal protections on their properties to ensure a critically endangered bird has a home forever.

More than 400 ha of land in the area has been protected with conservation covenants, which are voluntary agreements that are tied to titles and live on, even after a property changes hands.

Landholders are being motivated to take this step to protect the Plains-wanderer, a historical and evolutionary important species that is critically endangered in Australia due to habitat clearing, cultivation and inappropriate grazing regimes; just 250 – 1,000 are estimated to be left in the wild.

Graziers Andy and Judy McGillivray are the latest landholders to put a conservation covenant on 129.5 ha of their property north west of Echuca and said it’s the least they could to ensure Australia doesn’t lose another species.

Andy said, “Researchers have been on our property and recorded six Plains-wanderers.

“This was an amazing find and we’re really proud to be able to provide habitat for them. Knowing that we can protect the land forever gives us peace of mind that they will always have somewhere to live.”

Securing safe environments for the birds is critical to the success of breeding programs that aim to release the animals into the wild.

The Plains-wanderer is one of 27 threatened species identified in Zoos Victoria’s recently released Wildlife Conservation Master Plan.

Trust for Nature conservation officer Kirsten Hutchison said, “Zoos Victoria is committed to helping us partner with more landholders to protect more than 500 ha of land in the north central region of Victoria where there are still excellent grasslands that can support the bird.

“It’s really encouraging that we’re finding the bird still living out here—they’re very elusive and difficult to locate.

“Our hope is that more landholders recognise the critical role they play in looking after its future, and understand that covenants, and the bird, can coexist with farming.”

Andy said, “Knowing that what we do on our property can potentially help prevent a species from becoming extinct is humbling and amazing.

“We are over the moon since covenanting two of our native grassland paddocks. I love going out there and seeing the results.”

The Plains for Wanderers project is supported by the North Central Catchment Management Authority, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Putting a protective conservation covenant on a property is one of the most important things landholders can do to help Victoria’s plants and animals survive, thereby ensuring they are around for future generations to enjoy.

In 2018/19, 36 conservation covenants (covering 1,918 ha) were registered by Victorian landholders, bringing the total hectares protected by covenants to 66,827 ha.

Trust for Nature is one of Australia’s oldest conservation organisations, established by an Act of the Victorian Parliament in 1972 to protect habitat on private land.

It is a not-for-profit organisation that relies on the generosity of supporters to help protect Victoria’s biodiversity.

Andy and Judy McGillivray’s property will be open on September 13 as part of Trust for Nature’s Spring into Nature program.

It will be a great chance for visitors to tour a property that has excellent habitat for the Plains-wanderer. See events for more information.

Main photo courtesy Chris Tzaros.