PhD study, SW Victoria Brolga population

Movements, habitat use and population ecology of Brolga Grus rubicunda in south west Victoria.

School of Science and Technology, Federation University (Ballarat, Victoria) and Quantitative and Applied Ecology Group, Melbourne University.

Major Australian newspapers featured Inka's project in November, 2015. Story, images and video are online at the Age and Sydney Morning Herald


Study Details

The Brolga population in south west Victoria, Australia has has suffered an historical decline presumably due to habitat loss and degradation, and fox predation. The most recent count (April 2013) found 907 birds including 17% immature (to 2 years). Wind farm development has dramatically increased in districts with important breeding and flocking wetlands, leading to fears that turbine impact or other effects could further threaten the population.

Inka has led the South West Victoria Brolga Study field work since 2009, attaching transmitters to 12 chicks, 5 adults and 6 immatures (total 23). A number of chicks were also colour-banded. Adult Brolgas had never been captured before in Australia and US crane expert Dr Felipe Chavez-Ramirez was brought to Australia by the Victorian Department of Sustainability, to advise on capture and handling. Inka's work on Brolga life history parameters, habitats and movements will be used by an independent scientific panel to validate and refine the PVA (population viaibilty analysis) developed for this population by Melbourne University.

The PVA will be invaluable for government, the wind industry and landholders managing Brolga habitats. As well, this is the first systematic study of windfarm potential population impacts on any crane species, and its findings will have international significance.

Measuring Brolga

Inka Veltheim and Dr Chavez-Ramirez measure a Brolga. Below: Attaching transmitter to Brolga chick

Funding was by Commonwealth and State governments, the wind industry, Ballarat (now Federation) University and Bird Conservation and Observation Australia, BOCA (now BirdLife Australia). The study website has extensive information about the background, results and issues.

Papers

Inka Veltheim presented a paper on Southern Brolga movement patterns at the AOC, held in Adelaide from 25-27 November 2016. The title was ‘GPS tracking reveals two movement strategies of Brolgas, Antigone rubicunda, within a restricted range’. Supporters of the threatened southwest Victoria (Australia) Brolga population were keenly interested and we look forward to featuring more on Ozcranes soon.

Inka is also lead author for published papers from her study, with abstracts available online:

Inka is a member of the Crane Specialist Group»

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