Today’s Solutions: May 23, 2022

After enduring a few years of summer bushfires, particularly between 2019 and 2020, the glossy black cockatoo (or “glossies”) population in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales is struggling. To help bolster the threatened bird species’ chances of survival, the state government launched a project called “Glossies in the Mist.”

“We started working with the community to look at ways we can secure habitat for the glossy black cockatoos in the Great Western Wildlife Corridor,” explains Lauren Hook, an officer from the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment Threatened Species.

As part of the Glossies in the Mist initiative, nest boxes are installed in the trees that glossies are known to feed on. These nest boxes don’t just provide much-needed habitats, but they are also a fantastic tool that allows citizen scientists to participate in collecting important data about the glossies and other bird species in the region.

“We have the nest boxes up in the trees and there’s a remote sensor camera looking down into the nest boxes and when anything comes into the nest boxes, it takes a photo,” Hook says. These photos are uploaded to a website called “DigiVol,” and are made available to the public so that citizen scientists can help identify which birds are frequenting the boxes.

“It’s been fabulously rewarding that data that we’ve collected has been used to impact their habitat to save their habitat,” expresses Glossies in the Mist volunteer Erna Llenore.

“We had one bird who was sighted on a property two days before the fires went through and we didn’t know what had happened to that bird,” she continues. “Her habitat was gone, and she was then photographed again in the adjacent suburb only about a week after the fires.”

The initiative has turned into a community project, in which the Wingecarribee Shire Council also engages with private landholders to help identify suitable feeding trees and take note of any glossies spotted on their properties.

So far, no glossies have been spotted in the nest boxes, but other birds like galahs, rosellas, and self-crested cockatoos have been making great use out of them. Still, the volunteers are learning more things about the habitat and local birdlife.

“Because we have got the time to look at lots of photos and have contact with lots of people, we’re making observations about these birds that we’re finding are new observations and that aren’t covered in the literature,” Llenore adds.

The volunteers are still going through thousands of images of the birds who’ve used the nest boxes and are confident that they will spot the threatened glossies sooner or later. Once they do, they have plans to move more boxes to the corresponding area.

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