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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A data sheet was developed for recording and methods were trialled for counting (see Appendix A for data sheet). Initially counts were attempted by walking along the beach and counting the number of adults birds. However this caused great disturbance to the colony with adult birds leaving their nests in the dunes along with immature and half grown young birds. This left chicks and eggs exposed to the heat and predators. It also proved very difficult to count the birds along the beach as they tended to herd in front of the observer, making it difficult to count the birds in the middle and the far end of the herd and to distinguish adults from immature birds. It was also difficult for inexperienced observers to count or estimate birds in such large numbers. On the second day counting was attempted from a boat off shore. This proved more successful in counting the birds along the beach however from a distance it was difficult to distinguish adult and juvenile birds. It was also not possible to accurately count the birds on the nests above the dunes and amongst the shrubs from the boat. Counts between individual observers varied greatly, with an average count of approximately 700 adults. However the actual number is likely to be much higher as many birds were behind the dunes or had flown off to feed. It was also obvious from this survey that a lot more time was required to train rangers to be able to confidently count large numbers of birds. An alternative method that could be trialled would be photographing the colony from the air early in the morning when most the adults are still present. Nests and adults could then perhaps be counted from the aerial photograph. This could be done at three intervals during the breeding season each year - once early in the season, once in the middle and finally near the end of the season. The rangers at Bulgul would need to check na dconfirm when breeding had started as it varies slightly each year. However time and finances did not allow us to trial this method. Special thanks needs to be made to senior Bulgul Ranger Ricky Cubillo and his family for hosting us during this visit.