Bird ecology and conservation

The ecology and conservation of birds is a central focus of our lab. Birds are well known and easily monitored components of biodiversity and closely linked to changes in habitat. Our work is global in scope and uses birds as model organisms to investigate many ecological questions. Key current and past themes of our bird research are:

Island bird conservation: after a childhood spent in Fiji, islands will always be a great passion for Rob. Rob is determined to shine a light on the poorly known and greatly imperilled birds of Oceania’s scattered islands, including those of Australia. Research foci past and present include:

  • The status of the birds of New Britain, Papua New Guinea
  • the impacts of oil palm plantations on birds in New Britain
  • the conservation ecology of the Palau Micronesian Scrubfowl
  • conservation biology of the birds of the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.
  • Conservation of the Critically Endangered Abrolhos Painted Button-quail

Threatened bird conservation: the lab is dedicated to trying to inform the recovery of threatened birds by investigating their ecology and informing recovery actions. Key current and past projects include:

  • Impacts of fire management on the Vulnerable Western Partridge Pigeon in the Kimberley, Western Australia.
  • The status and biology of Masked and Barking Owls in south-western Australia.
  • Impacts of climate change on the Critically Endangered Western Ground Parrot.
  • Foraging ecology and roost sites of the Endangered Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo.
Shorebirds feeding at Lake MacLeod Banded Stilts, Red-necked Avocets, Curlew Sandpipers, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints

Migratory shorebird ecology:  Dr Sora Estrella joined our lab in 2013 as a post-doc working on our core project on the importance of saltworks in north-west WA for migratory shorebirds. For this project in collaboration with Professor Pierre Horwitz, we worked closely with Rio Tinto’s Dampier Salt Limited to assess how human-made salt ponds can provide foraging habitat for shorebirds. 

Bird -related media

Poisoning of owls and other predators: Australia’s reptiles may be spreading rat poison through the food chain.

Cocky count: how Perth’s ‘green’ growth plan could wipe out WA’s best-loved bird, with co-authors Martine Maron, Sam Vine and Tegan Douglas

The first photograph of Night Parrots in WA and what it means for conservation.

Key publications:

  • Radley, P., Davis, R.A. and Doherty, T. (2020). Impacts of Invasive Rats And Tourism On A Threatened Island Bird: the Palau Micronesian Scrubfowl. Bird Conservation International. Firstview.
  • Molloy, S.W., Burbidge, A.H., Comer, S. and Davis, R.A. (2019). Using climate change models to inform the recovery of a critically endangered parrot, the Western Ground Parrot. Oryx. 54: 52-61.
  • Davis, R.A. and Watson, D.M. (2018). Vagrants as vanguards of range shifts in a dynamic world. Biological Conservation. 224: 238-241.
  • Radley, P., Davis, R.A., Dekker, R., Molloy, S.W., Blake, D. and Heinsohn, R. (2018). Vulnerability of megapodes (Megapodiidae; Aves) to climate change and related threats. Environmental Conservation. 45:396-406.
  • Davis, R.A., Duston, G. and Szabo, J. (2017). Conservation status of threatened and endemic birds, New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Bird Conservation International. 28: 439-450.
  • Bertzeletos, D., Davis, R.A. and Horwitz, P. (2012). Importance of Lake McLeod, northwestern Australia, to shorebirds: a review and an update. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia, 95: 115-124.
  • Vanderwerf, E.A., Lohr, M.T., Titmus, A.J., Taylor, P.E., Burt, M.D. (2013). Current distribution and abundance of the O’ahu ‘Elepaio (Chasiempis ibidis). Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 125:600-608.
  • Bertzeletos, D., Davis, R.A. and Horwitz, P. (2012). Importance of Lake McLeod, northwestern Australia, to shorebirds: a review and an update. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia, 95: 115-124.
  • Davis, R.A. and Metcalf, B.M. (2008). The Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) in northern Western Australia: a recent sighting from the Pilbara region. Emu108: 233-36.

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