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Riverina landholders sign up to plains-wanderer land conservation

By NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust posted 01-03-2024 14:36

The small light-brown plains-wanderer might look unremarkable, but it is so unique it is placed in an entire family of its own.
It has earned the nickname, the 'Goldilocks bird' because conditions need to be just right for it to survive. Those conditions are of course a very specific type of grazing habitat found in remote areas of south-western NSW and across land also prized for its agricultural use.
The good news is, it might not be one of Australia’s rarest bird species for long if landholders in the state’s Riverina have anything to do with it.
Graziers with productive land in the region have set aside areas of their properties to protect the habitat of the endangered bird under specific conservation agreements with the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust.
These landholders have committed to the long-term conservation of the plains-wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus) by entering into agreements that protect more than 15,000 hectares of land, including 4000 hectares of primary plains-wanderer habitat.
With very few significant areas of the birds’ suitable grassland habitat protected in National Parks or reserves, private landholdings with suitable grassland habitat are critical for the ongoing survival of the species.
Each of the conservation agreement-holders with plans to protect plains-wanderer populations are funded by the NSW Government for their efforts on ground cover monitoring, farm planning, feed calculators and habitat regeneration.
The agreements, signed through a 2020 conservation tender with the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust, also protect wetland and woodland threatened ecological communities as well as the endangered southern bell frog (Litoria raniformis) and vulnerable red darling pea (Swainsona plagiotropis).
The landholders have committed to the long-term conservation of these species, entering into agreements from 15 years to in-perpetuity.
About the plains-wanderer
The plains-wanderer is a small quail-like bird standing about 12-15 cm tall. More than 99 per cent of records of plains-wanderers in NSW over the past 30 years come from an area of the western Riverina bounded by Hay and Narrandera on the Murrumbidgee River in the north, the Cobb Highway in the west, the Billabong Creek in the south, and Urana in the east. The range and numbers of the birds are affected by the quality of the habitat available to them, which in the western Riverina, can change during very wet or very dry years, when grasslands become too dense or too bare.