Australian painted-snipe

Australian painted-snipe
Rostratula australis
Photo by Eric Tan (Feather and Photos)

Common name:
Australian painted-snipe (en); narceja-pintada-australiana (pt); rhynchée d’Australie (fr); aguatero australiano (es); Australier-goldschnepfe (de)

Order Charadriiformes
Family Rostratulidae

This species is endemic to Australian, being mostly found at scattered locations throughout much of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and south-eastern South Australia. It has also been occasionally recorded further west in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

These birds are 22-25 cm long and have a wingspan of 50-54 cm. They weigh 120-140 g.

Australian painted snipes are found in ephemeral and permanent terrestrial shallow freshwater wetlands, and occasionally brackish wetlands, including lakes, swamps, saltmarshes and claypans. It can also occupy modified habitats including sewage farms, dams, bores and irrigation schemes.

These birds are mostly crepuscular, eating vegetation, seeds, insects, worms and molluscs, crustaceans and other invertebrates.

They mostly breed in August-March. These birds are polyandrous and the parental roles are reversed, so the females mate and lay eggs in several nests, after which each male is responsible for all duties of incubating and raising the chicks. They are loosely colonial, although nests are widely separated, and each male constructs the nest among tall vegetation, frequently on small muddy islands, but also sometimes on the shore of wetlands. There the female lays 3-4 cream-coloured eggs with black streaks, which the male incubates for 15-21 days. The chicks are precocial, leaving the nest within hours of hatching, but the male protects and broods them for several weeks.

IUCN status – EN (Endangered)
This species has a large breeding range, but it is sparsely distributed and the global population is estimated at just 1.000-2.500 individuals. The population has undergone a large decline of 20-50% over the last 3 decades, and this decline is likely to continue in the future, being caused by the loss of wetland habitats. The two major causes of this loss have been the drainage of wetlands and the diversion of water to agriculture and reservoirs. The replacement of endemic wetland vegetation by invasive weeds may also render habitats less suitable or even totally unsuitable for the species, and grazing and associated trampling of wetland vegetation by cattle may also be a threat to these birds in certain regions, particularly where grazing tends to become concentrated around wetlands in the dry season.

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