40-spot Field day – Inala November 2020

Amongst the towering white gums on Inala, Bruny Land for Wildlife owners saw, heard and learnt about the cryptic Forty-spotted pardalotes from Dr Sally Bryant and our very own Tonia Cochran.

Hosted by BIEN, this training day marked the beginning of an exciting citizen science project that will focus initially on helping the 40-spots survive and thrive.

About 20 people from all over the island first learnt how to identify 40 spots and differentiate them from their two cousins – the Striated and the Spotted pardalotes – and also to identify the Manna or White gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) on which these little dears are completely dependent.

The 40-spots are very unusual animals in that they actually farm their food source. Close-up filming has revealed that these tiny birds use their hooked beak to wound the stalks of the Manna gum to promote manna – a sugary secretion that they eat.

The hooked beak of the 40-spot is used to farm crystal ‘manna’ on white gums

Over the past 40 years, the population of the 40-spots has plummeted by 60%. Being completely dependent on Manna gum makes them very vulnerable and Manna gum is very sensitive to drought.

Huge swathes of Manna gum habitat has declined due to climate change and many former strongholds of the 40-spot are now empty of birds.

Off-shore islands now hold most of the 40-spot populations, and Bruny is of critical importance.

This is why BIEN is engaging with citizen scientists to help the birds survive and thrive.

We have reasonable ideas of where the 40-spots have been in the past, where people have put up nest boxes for them, and where people have planted white gums to encourage new colonies, and we are now asking people to monitor populations using the nest boxes and in suitable habitat.

We’ll feature here the best information about the 40-spots, how to:

  • identify 40-spots
  • identify Manna gums
  • monitor for 40-spot presence and upload data
  • build your own nest boxes (or purchase them)
  • plant and protect new planting for habitat

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