It's a good year to be a Malleefowl
The discovery of 12 active malleefowl mounds in the Gawler Ranges is a good sign the vulnerable bird is making the most of favourable seasonal conditions.
The monitoring trip was undertaken on the Gawler Ranges National Park and surrounding properties, providing a mix of sites with different levels of predator control through both the Bounceback, and Bounceback and Beyond programs.
SAAL Senior Community Ecologist Kris Bell said the presence of active mounds in regions outside areas where predators are managed is a great sign the birds can be resilient to the threat of foxes and cats. It also reinforces the importance of good quality, native vegetation on agricultural properties.
Ecologists Peri Stenhouse and Peter Hamnett searched for the malleefowl armed with information about 94 mounds and a further 43 potential mounds collected from earlier Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) surveys undertaken in the area.
In all, 141 mounds were surveyed. They included 93 that were known mounds revisited, 43 potential mounds located via LiDAR that were ground-truthed, and four that were newly-found.
It is a marked increase in the number of active mounds located in 2021 surveys, when two active mounds were found from the inspection of 75.
“The large increase in the number of active mounds is testament to beneficial seasonal conditions and the hard work of Peri’s survey team,” Mr Bell said.
Malleefowl build their nest using a combination of ground litter and soil to create a compost in which it lays and incubates its eggs. The species is unique in the way it actively regulates the temperature of the nest, which can be up to 4m wide, by constantly monitoring and working the soil and litter during the whole of the spring-summer breeding season. An active mound is one being used by malleefowl to incubate its eggs.
During the survey period, from 9-22 September, three malleefowl were also located. One was seen caring for an active mound, one in the vicinity of an inactive mound and one on a road.
In addition, an exposed malleefowl egg was also found on an inactive mound.
The information captured from this monitoring trip will be provided to the National Malleefowl Recovery team.
The mound surveys complement other work the SA Arid Lands Landscape Board conducts on the malleefowl and other threatened species in the region, which includes monitoring cameras and standardised trapping surveys.
Two weeks in the Gawler Ranges also provided an opportunity to note any additional rare fauna and flora sighted during the trip. One vulnerable Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby was found near the Organ Pipes, and two rare plant species: The Dogwood Jaeckeria (Haeckeria cassiniforma) and Great Victorian Desert Hibiscus (Alyogyne sp. Great Victoria Desert) were found while searching for malleefowl mounds.
The Bounceback and Beyond project is delivered by the SA Arid Lands Landscape Board, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.