Eerie wailing calls at night are often the only sign that Bush Stone-curlew are about. In fact, the distinctive calls of these birds have been responsible for phone calls to the police, from people thinking someone was screaming in the bush. But for locals living near Whiteman Park they’ve embraced some new feathered residents and are helping researchers learn more about the movements of these stunning, yet often elusive birds.
As part of the Perth Zoo’s Urban Renewal Program, we released another six curlews into Whiteman Park joining a contingent of Perth Zoo and Caversham Wildlife Park curlews which are now enjoying life in the wild.
Perth Zoo’s Director of Animal Health and Research, Dr Peter Mawson, said: “Numbers of these wonderful, charismatic birds have declined across southern Australia due to the fox and cat predation and changes in land use.”
“The releases of captive bred birds form part of Perth Zoo’s strategy to re-wild metropolitan Perth.”
“Ultimately we are aiming to return native species to their former ranges for future generations to enjoy, engage the community with native species and the conservation issues facing them and help rebalance the eco-system,” said Dr Mawson.
And the collaborative project is working!
To date, five chicks have been hatched from a Perth Zoo and Caversham Wildlife Park pairing, with the birds currently sitting on more eggs.
Apart from the breeding success, and as importantly, the community have taken the birds under their wing and providing invaluable information about the movements of the species.
“We’re regularly getting updates on the status and location of the birds from members of the public posting their sightings on Facebook, into bird watching forums or sending photos taken on their mobile phones,” said Dr Mawson.
“These birds are experts at camouflage, and during the day easily blend into the native vegetation, so the updates from the community have been invaluable.”
“Each bird is banded before it’s released and in previous years some were fitted with small radio-transmitters, so their extra ‘jewellery’ has helped prompt a lot of interest from locals and tourists alike.”
“In this new digital age, it’s a brave new world with regard to how we can monitor wildlife,” said Dr Mawson.
“For us at Perth Zoo it has helped us track the movements of some of the birds. Thanks to citizen scientists, we know there are two birds currently exploring various areas of Perth.”
One Perth Zoo bred bird which was released in October 2014 was reported at Herdsman Lake just a month later. It then ventured to Challenge Stadium and Rous Head Ferry Terminal before navigating to Fremantle Aquatic Centre carpark.”
“During all this movement it obviously worked up a thirst as it was then sighted at Bull Creek Shopping Centre outside of Dan Murphy’s before moving onto Jandakot airport the next day.”
The other Perth Zoo bird which has ventured further afield was recorded at Technology Park, Bentley two months after it was released.
“On each occasion, thanks to the assistance of the community we’ve been able to locate the birds, assess their condition, and in the case of two other birds that ventured away from Whiteman Park last year, we were able to return them to Whiteman Park.”
“They’ve been none the worse for their adventures, in fact the birds have been fit and well, and amazing little ambassadors for their species, prompting a flurry activity from interested members of the public.”
“At Perth Zoo, this is exactly what we are aiming for, inspiring people to love their local wildlife,” said Dr Mawson.