Territory Stories

Northern Territory seabird breeding colony monitoring



Northern Territory seabird breeding colony monitoring


Mahney, Terry; McKay, Lindley; Ziembicki, Mark; Westaway, John; Brennan, Kym; Morrison, Scott; Northern Territory. Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport Biodiversity Conservation Division


E-Publications; E-Books; PublicationNT




Date:2009; Cover title. Includes bibliographical references.; Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT)




Biodiversity conservation -- Northern Territory; Birds -- Breeding -- Australia, Northern; Wildlife conservation -- Northern Territory

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Northern Territory Government

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20 pages : ill., map ; 30 cm.

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Northern Territory Government



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After discussions with Northern Land Council it was felt that the ranger group at Numbulwar did not have the capacity to undertake a monitoring programme for Low Island. Discussion with the Tiwi Ranger coordinator indicated that the rangers and traditional owners for Sea Gull Island were more interested in controlling silver gull numbers than engaging in monitoring. Where the opportunity was available additional visits were made to known seabird breeding islands during biological surveys of nearby islands. This included: North East Crocodile Island; and Cowlard Island (near Croker Island); Counts of migratory shorebird numbers were also made during biological surveys of the Crocodile Islands as this area is considered of international importance for these birds (Harrison, McGuire et al. 2009). This project provided some opportunities to investigate possibilities of establishing seabird breeding colony monitoring with indigenous ranger groups, to visit some colonies to trial monitoring methods and to carry out some opportunistic counts of seabird and shorebird numbers. However, the logistical, financial and seasonal requirements of the broader biological survey component meant that we could not devote the time required to develop an effective and collaborative seabird monitoring program with indigenous rangers. Significantly more time and resources are required to be able to establish suitable monitoring methodologies and to develop the rangers capacity to undertake this monitoring. Aboriginal people have great knowledge and are keen observers of their natural environment including seabirds. However western scientific and Aboriginal ways of differentiating species, observing and recording them are quite different. To train anyone to identify and count large numbers of seabirds requires substantial time. Also the timing of seabird breeding varies from year to year, location to location and is different between species. Visiting the islands for monitoring purposes is also weather dependant. All these factors require sufficient time and flexibility for visiting the islands. Some thought also needs to be given to the possible impacts of regular monitoring of seabird colonies. Many of the colonies in the NT are remote and rarely visited. This has offered a significant level of protection of the colonies from human impacts. If not careful a regular monitoring programme could disturb these colonies, scaring birds off nests at hot times of the day and leaving them vulnerable to predators. We conclude that the development and implementation of monitoring methods that are suitable and acceptable for both western scientists, traditional owners and Aboriginal ranger groups requires a dedicated project, with fairly long timeframes. Following is a summary of each of the activities undertaken for seabird breeding colony monitoring as part of this project.