One of Australia’s rarest bird species is recovering dramatically after being helped to feather – and fumigate – their nests.
Endangered forty-spotted pardalotes build nests using grass, bark and feathers found on the forest floor.
But a type of parasitic fly (Passeromyia longicornis) loves these cosy nests too, and when the pardalote eggs hatch, maggots can kill 90 per cent of the chicks.
PhD researcher Fernanda Alves, from The Australian National University’s Research School of Biology, said the species had already suffered major population declines due to habitat loss
“Manually spraying pardalote nests with a bird-safe insecticide has proven to be effective, but the birds nest high in trees so finding and accessing their nests is very difficult,” Ms Alves said.
Fearing the birds could become extinct, Ms Alves had a clever idea to help them.
“Pardalotes spend a lot of time looking for bird feathers to build their nests with, so we decided to make use of this natural instinct to get insecticide into nests,” she said.
Ms Alves created dispensers stuffed with soft, sterilised, insecticide-treated chicken feathers.
The birds seemed enthusiastic to use this easy-to-find feather supply.
“The results were fantastic. Birds took the treated feathers back to their nests and as a result 95 per cent of the chicks survived – whereas those that used untreated feathers had only an eight per cent survival rate,” Ms Alves said.
Help feather the nests of Australia’s universities so they can save more species – sign the petition to #KeepItClever now.