Imperilled birds and First Peoples’ land and sea Country in Australia

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For First Peoples across Australia, birds have important connections to kin and Country. We draw on a recent analysis of all Australia’s threatened bird taxa to identify on whose traditional Country they occur. Of the 201 imperilled (threatened or Near Threatened) bird taxa facing threats within Australian territory (including Commonwealth waters and offshore islands), 64% occur on lands and waters to which at least 463 First Peoples’ groups have a connection. Fourteen bird taxa occur only on Country of a single First Peoples’ group while 15 taxa occur on Country of over 50 First Peoples’ groups. Four First Peoples’ groups, in north Queensland and south-eastern Australia, have over 20 imperilled bird taxa on their Country. Taxa on First Peoples’ Country face 78% of the total national threat load on imperilled birds and have 75% of both the research and management needs for relieving threats. All the threats are a consequence of colonisation, suggesting that supporting First Peoples to manage the threats to birds is a moral, and potentially legal, responsibility. Many First Peoples have chosen to engage actively in the conservation of imperilled species but there are numerous additional opportunities for monitoring and active management of Country that will yield benefits. Our analysis can help First Peoples identify which birds on their Country are listed as threatened under western conventions and that they may wish to help conserve; and assist conservation managers to identify First Peoples who might wish to lead or become more involved in imperilled bird management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-122
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Early online date2024
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge all First Peoples and Traditional Owners of the Country on which the birds from this study are based and are grateful to all First Peoples for their immense contribution to the knowledge and conservation of Australia’s birds. First Peoples’ knowledge of native Australian birds, their lifecycles and habitat needs is profound and continues to make substantial contributions to the conservation management of many species. We are grateful to all bird experts for contributing knowledge to the Action Plan for Australian Birds 2020, many of whom have contributed to past editions. We are immensely grateful to the volunteers and birdwatchers who have spent their time and money to survey birds across Australia and contribute to the atlases of birds in Australia, and more recently Birdata (managed by BirdLife Australia) to help us understand how species populations are going. Financial support for that project was received from the Australian Bird Environment Fund, BirdLife Australia, Charles Darwin University, Biosis Pty Ltd, Auchmeddan and the Wettenhall Environment Trust.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


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