Going gangbusters over Gang-gangs

Eurobodalla’s Gang-gang enthusiasts had some recent expert help when hotshot woodland bird specialist Laura Rayner made a flying visit from Canberra.

Having spent the past decade researching threatened bird species, Dr Rayner said Gang-gang cockatoos had declined by 69 per cent since the turn of the century and were listed as endangered.

“Researchers are coordinating projects to secure the Gang-gang’s future,” Dr Rayner said.

“The money is always scarce but this project has been very collaborative – researchers, government staff, citizen scientists and community groups.”

Biologist Susan Rhind and Eurobodalla Council’s natural resources supervisor Courtney Fink-Downes run a project to build and site artificial breeding hollows for Gang-gangs in the shire.

“We’ve located natural hollows where Gang-gangs have shown interest and installed 32 scientifically designed nest tubes in areas nearby. We want to know if they will use these,” Dr Rhind said.

“It appears there are currently Gang-gang hotspots; South Durras, Long Beach, Mogendoura, North Narooma and Tilba – with Broulee, Tomakin, Mossy Point really busy, they love the coastal wattle there.

“We’ve got lots of records of birds showing interest in a hollow, but it doesn’t mean they are breeding there. That’s where we rely on Laura’s knowledge.”

Dr Rayner has been collecting data from natural Gang-gang nesting hollows in the Canberra region and can determine if any hollows here were actually used for breeding.

“Unless we see the chicks in the nest, it’s hard to determine if a tree hollow has been used for breeding,” Dr Rhind said.

“One indicator is woodchips in the hollow, where the adults have chewed up wood to create a comfortable nest lining.”

Dr Rayner said data about Gang-gang breeding was very limited, “it’s hard to find nesting sites, so when we do, we measure everything we can,” she said.

Dr Rhind agreed. “We don’t even know where Gang-gangs go or whether they stay here with us on the coast during the winter,” she said.

“The word is that they spend their winters in ‘the mountains’. We need our great Gang-gang watchers to tell us if this is true. So for the next two months we want to hear of any Gang-gang sightings in the Eurobodalla, because suddenly it will be July and they will again be out looking for nest sites – and we are obsessively interested in finding those.”

The team hopes to learn more in the next part of the project.

“That involves working with landowners who may have Gang-gangs nesting on their properties, and working with interested people happy to report sightings, watch tree hollows and the already installed nest tubes. We’d like to monitor the nest-tubes for five years,” Dr Rhind said.

“This is citizen science at its best and we’re always looking for more people to be involved.”

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