Bitterns in Rice Project Update

Just hatched Bittern chicks in a Coleambally rice crop last season. Photo: Matt Herring

Just hatched Bittern chicks in a Coleambally rice crop last season. Photo: Matt Herring

The Bitterns in Rice Project was established in 2012 to raise awareness of this threatened species, learn about its’ use of rice fields and identify what rice growers do and can do to support bittern conservation.

The project brings together the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia, Birdlife Australia, Riverina Local Land Services, Murray Local Land Services, rice farmers, local community groups, and a range of other organisations. 

Population monitoring since 2012 has determined that the Riverina's rice fields support the global stronghold for the species, attracting 500-1000 bitterns in most years. This equates to around 40% of the estimated total population of Australasian Bitterns.

This season our population surveys will continue with the support of both the Riverina and Murray Local Land Services.

Other activities this season include fox control monitoring trials and trials to monitor Bittern breeding success. As the chicks begin leaving the nest within two weeks and move around their rice crop home for another 5-6 weeks before they fledge we need to find technology that will allow us to monitor their growth and survival. We have had some encouraging discussions regarding the use of drones equipped with thermal cameras and hope to trial this technology after Christmas.

If you have Bittern sightings or Bittern stories to share please contact Neil Bull nbull@rga.org.au or 0428 603 557 and for more information, visit https://www.bitternsinrice.com.au/

Rice Extension Newsletter, October 2017