Patho Plains farmers safeguard unique grassland bird
Farmer Andy McGillivray on his property protecting habitat for critically endangered Plains-wanderers.
Critically endangered Plains-wanderers, one of the most unique birds in the world, has a brighter future thanks to farmers Andy and Judy McGillivray who have protected 239 ha of the birds’ grassland habitat on the Patho Plains in northern Victoria, on Yorta Yorta Country.
Plains-wanderers are ground-dwelling birds that are found only on grasslands in inland eastern Australia.
They are ranked number one in the world out of 9,983 bird species on the Zoological Society of Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered bird list. They have no close relatives anywhere in the world and are the sole member of an ancient avian family, the Pedionomidae.
The quail-sized bird has declined precipitously over the last decade, and there are fewer than a thousand left across the country.
Andy and Judy, who have already safeguarded 200 ha of Plains-wanderer habitat on two properties, said agreeing to protect another property was common sense.
“Ours is one of the best privately-owned parcels of land for this bird in the world,” Andy said.
“It’s a little bit of paradise for them, and I get a really nice feeling knowing that I’m protecting them. Protecting the land hasn’t changed the way I farm at all, so they’re a no brainer. Helping these important birds is not costing us anything.”
Andy and Judy have protected their land with conservation covenants through Trust for Nature. A conservation covenant is a voluntary, legally binding and permanent agreement that requires landholders to actively manage their land.
Trust for Nature Conservation Officer Kirsten Hutchison said farmers were key to ensuring the survival of Plains-wanderers.
“Over 90 per cent of the grasslands these birds depend on has been lost, and nearly all of their remaining habitat is found on private land.
“Farmers like Andy and Judy play a really important role in protecting and looking after these grasslands. Native grasslands are a form of pasture, and can benefit from carefully planned grazing, so farming and these endangered birds can coexist really well,” said Kirsten.
Working with local landholders, Trust for Nature has protected nearly 1,000 ha of habitat for Plains-wanderers since 2018. Plains-wanderers have been found breeding on Andy and Judy’s properties since 2010.
The Plains for Wanderers project is a partnership between Trust for Nature and the North Central Catchment Management Authority, supported through funding from the Australian Government.
The Victorian Government is supporting recovery of the Plains-wanderer through its Icon Species Program and the Victorian Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action is working with Trust for Nature, North Central Catchment Management Authority, Parks Victoria, Zoos Victoria and the Northern Plains Conservation Management Network to support recovery efforts for the species across private and public land in northern Victoria.
James Whitmore, Communications Coordinator Manager, Trust for Nature, 0450 653 811, firstname.lastname@example.org