Australia’s rarest waterbird thrives at Inland Rail biodiversity offset site

Australia’s rarest breeding waterbird, the Australian Painted Snipe, had been sighted at Inland Rail’s biodiversity offset site near Yelarbon, Queensland.

The Australian Painted-Snipe. Scientific name: Rostratula australis.

The Australian Government estimates that the total population size of the Australian Painted Snipe has declined substantially, with the reported sighting rate of the bird in eastern Australia decreasing by more than 90% since the 1950s.

The Australian Painted Snipe generally inhabits shallow terrestrial freshwater wetlands, including temporary and permanent lakes, swamps and claypans, they also use inundated or waterlogged grassland or saltmarsh, dams, rice crops, sewage farms and bore drains.

Birdlife Australia notes the Australian Painted Snipe is affected by habitat destruction by cattle grazing; clearing of vegetation for agriculture; drainage, salinisation and pollution of wetlands and waterbodies; and alteration of flooding regimes due to the regulation of inland waterways. Painted Snipe are also preyed upon by introduced feral animals, such as cats and foxes.

As part of a research partnership with Inland Rail, researchers from the University of Southern Queensland first identified the Australian Painted Snipe while undertaking monitoring on the property. Inland Rail’s biodiversity offset advisors, Ausecology, have identified and photographed a total of 78 bird species at the site, including the vulnerable Painted Honeyeater, the Brown Treecreeper, and the Glossy Ibis.

Inland Rail purchased the property in Queensland in April 2022, buying 800ha near Yelarbon.

Acquiring the property will allow Inland Rail to use this property as part of its portfolio of properties that will contribute to the offset obligation to protect and manage threatened ecological communities and species habitat that will unavoidably be impacted by NSW/Qld Border to Gowrie construction activity.

Inland Rail and the University of the Sunshine Coast have also entered a partnership for research on threatened flora species across the NSW/Qld Border to Gowrie section of the project.

The collaboration will provide mapping, genetic assessment, and propagation trials for a range of threatened flora species.

Daniel Millar, Inland Rail Environmental Manager – Offsets, said:

“Protection of our landscape including threatened ecological communities and species habitat is paramount to Inland Rail as we build this project through rural and regional Australia.

“We’re thrilled to see the Australian Painted Snipe at our biodiversity offset site.

“Over recent months, Inland Rail has undertaken further surveys on ecological communities, including flora and fauna habitat, across the New South Wales/Queensland Border to Gowrie section.

“The surveys map the location of threatened ecological communities and species habitat, helping to understand how construction may impact and will ultimately guide design considerations to reduce these impacts wherever possible.”


Image caption: Australia’s rarest waterbird, the Australian Painted Snipe, thrives at Inland Rail biodiversity offset site. Credit: Ausecology/Inland Rail

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