Waterbird use of ricefields in Australia

Iain Taylor, Mike C. Schultz

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    Rice growing in Australia occurs almost exclusively in the southeast, in the Riverine Plains of the Murray-Darling Basin, with an annual average of 110,000 ha. All crops are grown under irrigation using water abstracted from rivers. Rice fields are flooded between October and March and are dry otherwise. A large decrease in natural wetland extent and declines in most waterbird populations have been associated with the increase in irrigated agriculture since the 1960s. The ecology of waterbirds in rice fields has been studied in only one area, around Fivebough Swamp in southern New South Wales. Thirty-seven waterbird species were recorded in rice fields compared with 70 species on an adjacent natural wetland. Species diversity and the abundance of individual speciesdeclined as the rice crops developed so that most species used rice fields for only one to two months after flooding. An increase in water depths associated with the timing of panicle initiationof the rice plants was probably the main cause, but declines in most waterbird prey species also occurred as the crops developed. Rice crops were particularly importnat feeding areas for Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) during November and December. Small numbers of the threatened Australian Bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus) were also recorded.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)71-82
    Number of pages12
    Issue numberSPEC.ISSUE.1
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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