King Island bird research: Brown Thornbill, Scrub-tit, Tasmanian Thornbill


Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment

Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 23 August 2021

Applicant: Australian National University 

Species/Taxon: (including non-target species likely to be affected)
Birds: Brown Thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla), Scrub-tit (Canthornis magna), Tasmanian Thornbill (Acanthiza ewingii). A small number of non-target birds are likely to be caught, primarily silvereyes, Tasmanian scrub-wrens and grey fantails. These birds will be removed from the net and released immediately.

Location: Sites across mainland Tasmania and King Island including on public, private and reserve land.

Title of research: Conservation of the King Island scrub-tit and brown thornbill

Aim of project:
We will collect data on breeding behaviour, rates/causes of nest failure and genetic structure including assessing geneflow which may affect population viability. Comparison with populations from mainland Tasmania will allow the genetic distinctiveness of the King Island subspecies to be assessed as well as its potential to act as a source of novel genetic diversity for the King Island subspecies. 

Justification: 
The King Island brown thornbill and King Island scrub-tit are considered critically endangered with the highest extinction probability over the next 20 years of all Australian bird species. However, basic knowledge of their ecology, life history and population genetic structure is sorely lacking, which limits our capacity to implement informed conservation actions to help prevent the extinction of the King Island brown thornbill and King Island scrub-tit. Data from whole genome sequencing from this project will be made publicly available meaning future research on these or related species will not have to repeat this process. This research is essential to inform conservation decisions being made by land managers.

Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved:

Specie​s
Maximum likely number of individuals involved
Brown thornbill
200
Scrub-tit​
150

Tasmanian thornbill
100


The numbers requested will allow sampling of 100 brown thornbill and scrub-tit from King Island, 50 on mainland Tasmania and 50 on mainland Australia (brown thornbill only). A higher number of birds from King Island is required to investigate connectivity between and inbreeding potential of isolated populations across the island. A lower number of Tasmanian thornbills is required these will purely be used to investigate taxonomic status of King Island and mainland Tasmanian populations.

Two to six mist nets will be set up and closed each day. Nets will not be left unattended. Trapping will only be conducted in fine weather (no rain, low wind).

Activities undertaken and methods:
The project includes nest monitoring using remote sensor cameras, surveys, temporary capture using mist nests, the use of call playback (short bursts used sparingly for surveys and capture), manual handling (taking body size measurements), collection of a blood sample (approximately 3 drops) and collection of dropped feathers. Captured birds will be banded with a uniquely numbered band from the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme, as well as a metal colour band for individual ID in the field post-release. An additional four birds will be collected and euthanised in order to collect tissue required for full genome sequencing.

Fate of animals:
The majority of individuals will be released after processing and remain free living. Four birds (two brown thornbills and two scrub-tits) caught on mainland Tasmania, will be euthanised to collect tissue for full genome sequencing. The large amount of high quality DNA needed for this process requires this lethal step. 

Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch):
The highest impact activity will be the euthanasia of four birds. These birds will be taken from birds on mainland Tasmania (where scrub-tit and brown thornbill are not of conservation concern) and not from the endangered King Island subspecies. A male and a female of each species (brown thornbill and scrub-tit) will be euthanised. All other individuals will be held captive for a few minutes while they are banded and a small blood sample is collected. They will then be released back into the wild and continue to live freely.  






Contact

Scientific Research Permits
Natural and Cultural Heritage
Level 5, 134 Macquarie Street
Hobart TAS 7000
Email: Scientific.Permits@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

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