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Black-throated Finch

7 September 2021

Black-throated Finch

What is the Black-throated Finch?

  • The Black-throated Finch is a perching songbird

  • It has been listed as endangered under Australian and Queensland laws.
  • Adani Australia (now known as Bravus) has done at least 15 monitoring surveys of Black-throated Finch numbers in central Queensland over almost a decade.

The Black-throated Finch (southern subspecies) is small perching songbird with distinctive black eyes and throat, a grey head, and brown and white body feathers. It is an endangered species.

We are learning more than ever before about this subspecies due to comprehensive ecologist-led research now underway.

Before construction of the Carmichael Project started, Adani Australia, now known as Bravus, we created a Black-throated Finch management plan to monitor, survey and protect the birds.

Ecologists are now tracking their movements using radio-transmitters.

They have found the Black-throated Finch population is thriving around the 60,000-hectare area under survey – the first count of its kind around the region.

An initial population estimate conducted by third party experts estimated numbers of 641 to 2202 finches across 102 sites, within the overall 60,000-hectare area. These experts caution, however, that recorded numbers vary due to seasons, rainfall, and many other factors.

Black-throated Finch interesting facts

  • The Black-throated Finch builds bottle-shaped nests
  • Black throat finches eat seeds
  • The Black-throated Finch is also known as the Parson finch.

Where are Black-throated Finches found?

  • The Black-throated Finch habitat is grassy, open woodlands and forest
  • They build nests in tree branches and shrubs
  • Adani Australia (now Bravus) is working with third-party ecologists to do the first black-throated finch in the Galilee Basin.

The southern sub-species is found in coastal northern Queensland and inland central Queensland including the Galilee Basin.

Its habitat is in grassy, open woodlands and forests, typically eucalyptus, acacia and melaleuca. It lives close to permanent water sources and seeding grasses.

It has a “stronghold” population around Townsville and Thuringowa in North Queensland.

The Black-throated Finches build nests in branches, hollow tree limbs and bushy shrubs. We are finding out more about the black-throated finch foraging patterns and distribution through monitoring, including a recent tracking survey.

Why is the Black-throated Finch endangered?

  • The Black-throated Finch population has been in decline for decades

  • Habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as weed infestation, are threats

  • Comprehensive monitoring is important – and that’s what we’re doing.

The Australian Government Environment department’s significant impact guidelines said the population of the Black-throated Finch likely started to decline when its habitat was opened up for pastoralism and farming in the early 1900s.

“The most probable cause of decline from the southern parts of the historic range are overgrazing by sheep and feral rabbits .. and habitat clearing,” the report said.

Loss and fragmentation for rural subdivision, urbanisation and agriculture present threats to the Black-throated Finch habitats, as well as weed infestation and changes in traditional fire patterns that impact grasses. Numbers have also been lost to illegal trapping and introduced predators.

This has been happening for decades and this is why the Black-throated Finch is endangered.

It used to be found in northern New South Wales, however, there have not been sightings for many years. Researchers tried to conduct a bird count in 2000 but none of the species were located.

Fortunately, we are learning more about why the Black-throated Finch is endangered and how we can better protect the species.

Black-throated Finch research

  • Adani (now Bravus) engages ecologists to monitor the Black-throated Finch population
  • Research is underway across a 33,000-hectare conservation area in the Galilee Basin, as well as a wider 60,000-hectare zone
  • Leg radio transmitters allow bird tracking.

Adani Australia, by engaging teams of ecologists, is doing significant Black-throated Finch research. We have been studying the endangered birds in 2012 and has done at least 15 monitoring surveys.

As Bravus, we are continuing to do this comprehensive research across the 33,000-hectare conservation area. This is one of the biggest privately-owned conservation areas in Australia. There is also finch research work underway in the significantly smaller mining area.

Third-party scientists surveyed the Black-throated Finch. To do this, they use radio tracking to find out how far the finches travel, where they forage for seeds, and where they live. These avian experts fitted the birds with leg ID transmitters. These emit radio signals every 13 seconds, which are tracked by 27 towers across the site.

The towers are located near water sources, places where Black-throated Finches frequent more commonly.

The initial estimate took place in 102 locations across the 60,000-hectare monitoring zone.

This knowledge about the bird’s movement patterns, behaviours and preferences, as well as seed availability across the region, will help guide Black-throated Finch management practices in the future.

What is the Black-throated Finch recovery plan?

  • There is a national Black-throated Finch recovery plan
  • It outlines steps to monitor and protect the birds
  • A cross-disciplinary team supports the plan, including regular bird counts.

In 2007 the Australian Government produced a Black-throated Finch recovery plan.

This plan outlined actions to protect the Black-throated Finch and to promote the recovery of the southern subspecies.

The Black-throated Finch recovery plan is supported by the Black-throated Finch recovery team, a cross-disciplinary team who aim to manage and protect the population.

The recovery plan sought to identify and quantify threats to the birds, investigate feeding and other requirements, document sightings, development standard survey guidelines, undertake mapping and habitat modelling, secure conservation sites, address threats on grazing lands, and determine the suitability of a captive-bird reintroduction program.

What is the Black-throated Finch Management Plan?

  • Bravus conducts research in line with the Black-throated Finch management plan
  • This plan is evidence-based and signed off by independent experts
  • Some of the habitat management is undertaken by majority-owned First Nations business, Woongal Environmental Services.

The Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science approved Adani’s black throated management plan in May 2019.

This evidence-based plan, informed by the best science available, was also approved by an independent expert panel.

Under this plan, Adani (now Bravus) committed to do population studies, establish monitoring and manage the Black-throated Finch’s known specific habitats. These are now underway.

The management plan also outlines the actions Bravus will undertake to protect the finch, including weed, fire and grazing management, and enhancing water source locations.

This management is being undertaken by majority-owned First Nations business, Woongal Environmental Services. Bravus is proud to be contributing to research and awareness of the Black-throated Finch.

Bravus and the Black-throated Finch

  • Significant research is underway
  • The Black-throated Finch management plan is effective and working as planned
  • No finches have been harmed during construction.

Bravus is committed to the effective monitoring and protection of the Black-throated Finch.

These unprecedented scientific efforts to track and survey the finch populations have revealed the population around the Carmichael project is thriving.

Throughout construction for the Carmichael Mine, project managers have engaged fauna spotters and other protection measures. These have ensured no finches have been harmed.

An analysis of the management plan also recommends more pest and weed management.

Bravus will continue to research the Black-throated Finch to ensure best practice management of the bird’s habitat around the site.