Elinor Scambler research

Elinor studied Economics Honours at Monash University, and in 1998 headed the first cohort of the Graduate Certificate in Ornithology at Charles Sturt University. Moving to Queensland in 1985 (first to Magnetic Island, Townsville, then to the Atherton Tablelands), she became interested in the history of Sarus Cranes in north Queensland when studying bird recruitment to a waterside revegetation site. The changed habitat attracted forest birds but largely excluded Sarus Cranes from one of the first roost and feeding sites identified on the Atherton Tablelands, 25 years earlier. In 1997 she designed and led to 2008, the annual BirdLife Northern Queensland volunteer Crane Count on the Atherton Tablelands, the first systematic count for Australian Sarus, and the first for far north Queensland Brolgas.

In 2004 Elinor began the Australian Crane Network, designed and built the Ozcranes website, and continues as web manager and editor. Side interests are web design using Web Standards and Crane art in all its many forms.

Key issues and future work

Brolgas beside fence

Bromfield Swamp crane roost, Atherton Tablelands (Sandy Carroll)

Until 1997, when BirdLife Northern Queensland began its annual Crane Count project, there were no systematic counts of cranes on the Atherton Tablelands – the only known wintering concentration of Australian Sarus Cranes. Survey results to 2017 show that the Tablelands is internationally significant for both Brolgas and Sarus Cranes in the non-breeding season, particularly Sarus Cranes which are globally Vulnerable». The study has produced the first systematic minimum population estimate for Australian Sarus Cranes of 3,255, 19.5% of the estimated global population. Over 3,460 Brolgas have wintered on the Tablelands, some 4.9% of the global population. Annual crane numbers overall are very variable, possibly due to resource factors affecting migration numbers and periods, and to variations in recruitment and survival in the source populations.

As well, the study revealed that the two species concentrate at roosts in different parts of the Tablelands, but some roosts are shared. Usually groups of Brolgas and Sarus Cranes mingle at shared roosts, which is unusual at multi-species wintering roosts. Sarus Cranes arrive later at roosts than Brolgas. For more see 21 year Crane Count results» and for news of ongoing Crane Counts visit BirdLife Northern Queensland or contact the Coordinator.

Future work

Elnor's ongoing work includes present and historical major Brolga flocking sites in Australia; vertebrates in the diets of Australian cranes; further biographical papers on Jim Bravery's life and work; and the contributions to ornithology of scientists and birdwatchers serving in the armed forces in far north Queensland during WW2, 1940-1945.

Large flocks of Brolgas near Clermont, central Qld – an unstudied major flocking site for Australian Brolgas (courtesy Bob and Olive McTrusty)

Brolga flocks

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All Elinor's papers are available for download on her personal site Cranesnorth or in Ozcranes Downloads». The exception is Sundar et al. 2019, available on request.

Elinor C. Scambler, John DA Grant and N. Glenn Holmes. 2020. First observations of Australian Sarus Crane Antigone antigone gillae pairs attending three young and the incidence of three-egg clutches in the Brolga A. rubicunda. Australian Field Ornithology 37: 105-111.

Dunne HI, Scambler EC. 2020. First observation of a Brolga Antigone rubicunda preying on eggs and of water-kicking behaviour by Australasian Grebes Tachybaptus novaehollandiae as a nest-defence. Australan Field Ornithology 37: 119-123.

Elinor Scambler, Tim Nevard, Graham Harrington, Ceinwen Edwards, Virginia Simmonds and Don Frainklin. 2020. Numbers, distribution and behaviour of Australian Sarus Cranes Antigone antigone gillae and Brolgas A. rubicunda at wintering roosts on the Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland, Australia. Australian Field Ornithology 37: 87-99.

Elinor C. Scambler. 2020. Jim Bravery's cranes: Brolgas and Sarus Cranes on the Atherton Tablelands, 1920-1975. North Queensland Naturalist 50: 12-24.

K.S. Gopi Sundar, John D.A. Grant, Inka Veltheim, Swati Kittur, Kate Brandis, Michael A. McCarthy and Elinor C. Scambler. 2019. Sympatric cranes in northern Australia: abundance, breeding success, habitat preference and diet. Emu 119: 79-89. Abstract available at Emu: Austral Ornithology.

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Ozcranes articles (most recent)

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