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March 5, 2021

Citizen scientists take part in ibis census

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Northern rivers residents and people across Australia yesterday took part in the annual white ibis census in which they became ‘citizen scientists’.

Ironically, Tweed bird watchers recorded many ibis which have made the ‘duck pond’ in Murwillumbah’s Knox Park home, but are threatened by a proposed $1 million upgrade of the park.

Tweed Shire Council plans to build a walkway across the pond and through its central island where the ibis and other bird species roost.

The pond in the CBD park is a popular bird-watching area, especially for older people.But the plan for the whole park, half of which would be federally funded, is yet to take shape or be exhibited publicly as concerns have been raised by bird watchers and some councillors.The ibis survey, conducted each year by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), aims to better understand where white ibis are and help determine if management practices are working.NPWS spokesperson Dr John Martin said that while many are quick to criticise and condemn ibis as dirty, noisy scavengers, it’s important to look at why they are in urban areas and what this means for their long-term survival and management.’Ibis are native to Australia but they have increased in numbers along the coast in response to drought and changes to the inland wetlands,’ Dr Martin said.’It was rare to see an ibis in the Sydney region 50 years ago, but the annual community survey has identified as many as 9000 in recent years.’Getting an overview of the ibis population is only possible with the help of the community.’Ibis have adapted to urban living and appear to be expanding into new areas. This is where the participation by members of the community is so important, if ibis have colonised your local park or wetland people can let us know.’In previous years we have had volunteers counting nests and birds in wetlands and parks from the Tweed to Dubbo to Albury, and this year we aimed to increase the coverage across NSW and Australia.’Since the surveys began in 2003, more than 2000 ibis have been colour-banded and wing-tagged to get an idea of where they go when they leave the Sydney area.’So far, colour-banded chicks have been found as far afield as Townsville, 2500km away, while in the Sydney region we have radio-tracked ibis moving up to 35km to forage on a daily basis.’This demonstrates that we need to assess and understand this species at a national scale basis not as isolated local populations,’ Dr Martin said.Participants, including many from bird-watching clubs, yesterday headed out to locally-known ibis habitat areas and counted them.They also recorded if they had bands on their legs or tags on their wings and notified survey organisers via an on-line form.

For more information, visit: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/surveys/WhiteIbisSurvey.htm

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