Black-throated finch – bird on the brink.
The Southern Black-throated Finch (the white rumped Parson Finch) was once widely distributed in eastern Australia extending from northern NSW to northern Queensland. However, it has dramatically contracted in range in the last 30 years and is now classified as endangered in Queensland and is believed to be extinct in the wild in New South Wales. Its range has contracted 80% and it is now found only around the Townsville Coastal plain and in the Galilee Basin inland from Townsville. In both these areas the finch is threatened by urban development and landuse intensification around Townsville and by proposed mining developments in the Galilee basin, where the biggest populations remain.
Why should we care?
Does it matter if the Southern Black-throated Finch goes extinct? There is also a northern subspecies, the black-rumped Blackthroat or Diggles, which is not threatened. According to Dr. Kerensa McElroy, conservationist geneticist working on the problem, the answer is YES! “For any organism, subspecies preserve aeons of evolutionary history. Small genetic adaptations, accumulated generation-by-generation over hundreds of thousands of years, allow each subspecies to be uniquely suited to its local environment. Subspecies also continuously swap genes with each other. This means the species as a whole has a repertoire of different gene versions it can draw on, which may prove vitally important if conditions suddenly shift, e.g. through rapid climate change.”
The southern black-throated finch is also one of those ‘flagship species’ a potential ambassador for threatened woodland communities across southern Queensland where we have already lost the Southern Star Finch and where Diamond Firetails have all but gone. By understanding the decline of the Southern Blackthroat, we may also be able to help many other species to survive.
About The Black Throated Finch Recovery Team
The Black-throated Finch Recovery Team (BTFRT) was formed in 2002. The team consists of volunteer community and government agency representatives and aims to foster the conservation and recovery of the Black-throated Finch. BTFRT was instrumental in the development of the Black-throated Finch Recovery Plan which was approved by the Commonwealth Minister of Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts in 2008.
The plan relates specifically to the southern sub-species of the Black-throated Finch (Poephila cincta cincta). The plan describes the status of the species and identifies actions deemed to be required for it to survive and recover. These actions include:
1) Identify and quantify threats
2) Quantify distribution and abundance
3) Protect and enhance habitat
4) Investigate potential for reintroduction and
5) Increase public awareness.
More detail can be found at www.blackthroatedfinch.com
The BTF Recovery Plan was updated recently to accommodate new research and growing threats. The BTF Recovery Team conduct an annual count of BTFs at waterholes in the Townsville area, which show the local population there to be sustained but at very low level. No regular monitoring is available for the much larger residual population in the Desert Uplands of the Galilee Basin in central Queensland.
Recently the Queensland Government has developed a Blackthroated Finch Bioregional Management Plan for the Galilee Basin where the Adani Coal Mine and several other coal mines threaten the last remaining stronghold for the subspecies. Unfortunately this plan is not funded to actually achieve anything and has not yet been implemented.