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Native birds and the built environment

by Paul Fraser

When we think about native birds and their nesting environments, we would generally think about natural settings like trees, shrubs, tree hollows, rock escarpments, and so on.

Before Europeans arrived here and started to alter the natural environment and build structures, this would certainly have been the case.

This remains so for most bird species, however, some have adapted or indeed evolved to take advantage of built structures.

The natural nesting locations for Fairy Martins and Welcome Swallows would have been in rock overhangs and shallow caves, protected from weather extremes, and out of reach for many predators. However, suitable nesting sites are scarce within much of their extensive range.

Then along came Europeans with their houses, barns, bridges, and culverts. Perfect, thought the Martins and Swallows, humans have built the overhangs and caves for us to attach our little mud nests.

Both houses that I have lived in on the Range have had Welcome Swallows nesting under the eaves. They can be a bit messy, but they are fantastic at keeping the insects under control, so are “welcome” guests.

The Grey Falcon is one of our rarest raptors, and usually only occurs in central Australia, often in areas where there are few trees, and even fewer large trees.

In recent decades, the communication age has resulted in large numbers of very tall communication towers being constructed across the country, including within the range of the Grey Falcon.

The now preferred nesting location of the Grey Falcon is on these towers, that are much higher than any trees that occur within their range. In addition to providing an ideal nesting site, they have a 360-degree view, which would be very beneficial in looking for prey.

There are several sites in central Australia well known to bird watchers where these birds can be observed from an unobtrusive distance high up on their towers.

Peregrine Falcons occur across most of Australia, and their natural nesting habitat is a ledge on a rocky escarpment. They can sometimes be seen on the escarpment from the lookout at Mapleton Falls.

They have learned that high-rise buildings not only have similar desirable nesting characteristics but are also more common than natural nesting sites. Consequently, the Peregrine Falcon can be found nesting on high-rise buildings in most Australian cities, including at Maroochydore.

It is pleasing to know that some local authority planners are now making provision for Peregrine Falcon nesting mandatory on new high-rise buildings.

There are several other native species that make use of the built environment including the Pardalote, Lorikeet, Rosella, Willie Wagtail, Osprey and Australian Wood Duck.

Whilst ongoing habitat destruction continues to impact many bird species, at least some seem to be benefiting from our actions.



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