Recently but infrequently burnt breeding sites are favoured by threatened Gouldian finches (Erythrura gouldiae)

Anna Weier, Ian J. Radford, Sofia L J Oliveira, Michael J. Lawes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Frequent and extensive fires are becoming increasingly common throughout the tropical savannas of northern Australia. This fire regime has been implicated in both habitat alteration and losses of biodiversity. Granivorous birds are particularly affected because of the effect of fire on grass seed availability. The endemic Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae) has experienced population declines in recent decades, potentially in response to changed fire regimes. Using breeding data from monitored artificial nest-boxes, this study examined the choice of breeding site by Gouldian finches in response to several attributes of the prevailing fire regime. The fire regime was characterised using remote sensing analysis of annual fire scars. Time since last fire and fire frequency were the most useful predictors of breeding site occupancy. Gouldian finches favoured recently burnt sites (previous dry season), but also sites that were infrequently burnt (return time of 2-3 years). Consequently, under the current regime of many frequent fires, Gouldian finches move among breeding sites and display low seasonal site fidelity. Our findings provide support for the notion that the Gouldian finch favours a fine-grain patch-mosaic fire regime and that contemporary large-scale fire regimes are likely contributing to their decline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1281-1290
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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